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The structure of fur trade relations Tanner, Adrian

Abstract

The history of trade among Indian groups of the Canadian Yukon has included changes in the quantity and type of goods involved and, more importantly, changes in the social relations between the people who conducted this trade. These relations were between distinct native groups at first, and later directly between Indians and White traders. In this study historical data on the changes in trade is organized into convenient stages by identifying types of trade institutions. Four such stages are described and analyzed with reference to the major conditioning factors for trade in the area and at the time. These stages are (1) Inter-tribal trade, when exchanges were conducted between partners of different native groups; (2) Trading chief trade, m which an Indian group leader handled relations with White traders; (3) Monopoly trade, in which a quasi-debt relationship handled trade between traders and individual trappers; and (4) Market trade, in which trade is handled through separate fur market and retail market institutions. Institutions are treated in this study as having a set of several purposes related to the complementary aims of participants. Changes between one stage and the next are seen as a regrouping of these purposes into new sets, which become the focus of hew institutions. This view of institutional change arises from an analysis of the changes in trade relations in the Yukon, and is compared with a somewhat similar analysis of social change developed "by Talcott Parsons and Neil Smelser.

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