I'm curious to know how Natives Americans and Europeans colonists traded during the colonization of north-east America.

what kind of currencies (if any) were used? Or did they barter?

  • wampum, kimosabe, and whiskey, wampum and whiskey Oct 16, 2014 at 1:35
  • Yeah, alcohol was the pre-opium war way of balancing trade. Oct 16, 2014 at 2:36
  • 1
    The well known coloured stripes on Hudson's Bay Company merchandise date from this period, with the number of stripes indicating the price in beaver pelts. Link: thebay.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/thebay/… Oct 16, 2014 at 2:45
  • The de facto unit of currency became the adult beaver pelt, with items valued in multiples (and occasionally simple fractions such as 1/2 or 1/3) of this. Wolf and bear pelts were equivalent to a number of beaver pelts, muskrat to a fraction at 2 or 3 to one. Oct 16, 2014 at 3:19
  • @Semaphore what a nice kitty Oct 16, 2014 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


During this time, the Native Americans traded mainly furs and sometimes food.
In exchange, the Europeans gave them items like horses, alcohol, and manufactured goods such as guns, metal cooking utensils, and cloth.

The Indians made good use of the trade goods they received, specifically the axes, knives, and guns. They had quite a good source of income for a good deal of time until the mid 1800's, when changing fashion trends resulted in a collapse of the demand for fur clothing.

Remember that at this time, furs were in high-demand in Europe, due to a shortage. Especially beaver furs, which at that time were fashioned into fancy hats. Other furs were used too, mainly for fashion.

  • Tightly knit and woven articles such as blankets and cloth coats were also highly regarded by Amerindian natives, and could be supplied from across the Atlantic cheaply enough to trade for furs. Oct 16, 2014 at 2:47
  • @PieterGeerkens I had no idea! Do you have any idea why these were highly regarded by Amerindian natives? Was it for cultural reasons?
    – Chantola
    Oct 16, 2014 at 2:55
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    Because they had no looms, only bone needles instead of steel ones, and no automation while England and the rest of Western Europe was starting to industrialize. A well sewn or knitted coat, brightly coloured, was a much more fashionable item than a routine fur shawl for the future tribal chief. In Europe, the latest beaver hat and stole marked the fast-track burgher out from his colleagues in mere woven coats and hats. Rarity and quality, combined, always carry high market value. Oct 16, 2014 at 3:14
  • @PieterGeerkens Ahh.. thank you. I believe that would fall in the "manufactured goods" section. The more you know.
    – Chantola
    Oct 16, 2014 at 3:16
  • thx for answer and comment. Your answer reminds me I'm sure having saw in a movie some natives asking some blankets as payment Oct 16, 2014 at 21:54

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