Early Eastern fur trade was beneficial to both Native American
and European powers. Many people of the various Algonquin and
Iroquois Nations brought their furs to exchange for blankets,
cooking pots, knives, axes, guns and powder, cloth, metal trinkets
and other trade goods. The Europeans established large trade centers
along rivers and the Great Lakes where the Indians could bring
vast quantities of deer, beaver, fox and other animal hides to
swap and bargain for those beneficial goods held by the Dutch
and later, the English and French.
However, there were numerous less formal trades and trade sites
where one or more local Indians might agree to parley a favorable
exchange with an independent trader. John Buxton has chosen to
show this exchange. Several Natives have come by canoe with a
few good furs and the French trader has laid out some of his goods.
There is a hint, judging from two French artillery men standing
in the background, that perhaps this scene may not be very far
from a French fort or trading post. Things appear to have gone
well. The Frenchman has accepted an offer to “pass the pipe” among
the friendly negotiators. They have, in turn, accepted him as
dealing with them fairly and this making of smoke is their way
of acknowledgement. Both parties are expressing an interest in
many future exchanges.