What was the Maritime Fur Trade and How did Native Americans bargain for goods?

The Maritime Fur Trade refers to a trade network that developed between Northwest Native Americans and foreign non-Native American traders.

The non-Native Americans wanted seal furs, which they could resell in China for an enormous profit. In exchange for seal furs, Native American traders received guns, woven cloth, and European metals, especially copper and iron. They also liked to bargain for Chinese coins, which they used to decorate their own clothing.

Northwest Native Americans almost always had the upper hand in the Maritime Fur Trade. They did not have to have the goods the non-Native American traders offered, but the non-Indian traders, after traveling across the globe, needed to fill their ships with seal furs or they would lose all the money they spent on the trip.

The Native Americans took full advantage of the situation. They learned to drive a hard bargain and refused to trade with anyone whose goods were not of the highest quality.

One French trader who dealt with the Tlingit claimed that they “bargained with as much skill as any tradesman in Europe.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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