The yellowed pages of a travel journal, a letter unearthed by chance, photographs recovered from a company's dusty archives: These are but a few of the scattered materials used to reconstruct the fascinating and little known adventure of Revillon Brothers, a Parisian merchant of elegant furs, who came to Canada at the turn of the century to enter into the fur trade. But the adventure comes to an end in 1936 when Revillon's great rival, the Hudson's Bay Company, buys out the French company. Victorious, the Hudson's Bay Company, is the only of the two to be remembered in the history books. In between the words of the few remaining witnesses to a lost history, in the memories of descendants of employees and in specialists' passion for the fragments recovered, a world long thought vanished is recreated in front of our eyes. In French with English subtitles.
This short film from 1946 presents an outline of the fur trade's history and the commercial use of fur in Canada. A thirst for fur by the kings and courts of the Old World positioned the fur trade as part of the country's industrial economy. Fur farming and conservation became increasingly important, although the lonely life of the trapper remained the same. This film offers a view of both.
For five or six months at a time, Frank Ladouceur lives alone, trapping muskrat in the vast, desolate wilderness of northern Alberta. His family last visited him there some 14 years ago, and Frank’s own visits to the family home in Fort Chipewyan are few and far between. This is the story of an independent Métis man who is remarkably determined and self-sufficient, and who is ceaselessly called to return to the bush. Early experiences at Holy Angels residential school are recounted by his daughter. A Christmas play at the local school is presented in Cree. After a family Christmas meal, the fiddle and guitar are taken out and the Red River Jig begins.
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s 300th-anniversary celebration in 1970 was no occasion for joy among the people whose lives were tied to the trading stores. Narrated by George Manuel, then president of the National Indian Brotherhood, this landmark film presents Indigenous perspectives on the company whose fur-trading empire drove colonization across vast tracts of land in central, western and northern Canada. There is a sharp contrast between the official celebrations, with Queen Elizabeth II among the guests, and what Indigenous people have to say about their lot in the Company’s operations. Released in 1972, the film was co-directed by Martin Defalco and Willie Dunn—a member of the historic Indian Film Crew, an all-Indigenous production unit established at the NFB in 1968.
The historic post of Moose Factory on James Bay is still a centre of Canada's fur trade. The camera follows Cree trapper George McLoed as he goes out from the post to visit his trap lines. Bivouacing in the open, in bitter cold, he traps mink and beaver, skillfully skinning the animals and drying the rich pelts. Back at the post, he sells his furs to the Hudson's Bay trader.
The story of the Jesuit martyrs who lived with the Wendat converts in the region near what is now Midland, Ontario. The film is of wide interest since it reconstructs a period of Canadian history, especially of Indigenous life, at the very beginning of European settlement. The village and the Jesuits' buildings are exact models from archeologists' reconstructions. The story is based on the Jesuit Relations, the actual journals of mission life that still make for thrilling reading.
(Please note that Mission of Fear was produced in 1965 and reflects the attitudes and thinking of its era. To modern audiences, parts of the film may be perceived as offensive, but it must be seen as a cultural product of the era in which it was produced. The perspectives of Canadians (and the NFB) have evolved and become more conscious of Indigenous rights, realities and points of view since the making of the film. Through its rich collection of Indigenous-made films, available at Indigenous Cinema, the NFB continues to strive to challenge stereotypes about Indigenous people and accurately depict the diverse experiences of Indigenous communities. )
This short documentary looks at the Indigenous Gitxsan community in central British Columbia’s Skeena River through one of its members, Ben Risdale. Watch as Ben follows the “Grease Trail” from the first snowfall, and follow along as he tends his traplines while living outdoors among the grandeur of the surrounding forest and mountains. His reward? A valuable stock of fur pelts.
An NFB crew filmed a group of three families, Cree hunters from Mistassini. Since times predating agriculture, this First Nations people have gone to the bush of the James Bay and Ungava Bay area to hunt. We see the building of the winter camp, the hunting and the rhythms of Cree family life.
A visit to the "Indians of Canada" pavilion at Expo 67, Montréal. Inside there are Indigenous artifacts, but even more arresting are the printed placards that tell the story of the Indigenous peoples in North America, written without rancor but recalling what their contact with European settlers has cost in freedom of movement, in loss of land, and in loss of health of body and spirit.
This powerful short documentary showing Indigenous youth resistance and emerging voices that will continue to define the landscape of Indigenous cultural and political activism for the next generation. Members of the National Youth Council, including Duke Redbird and Harold Cardinal, have a powerful exchange with a hostile white priest about the failures of the education system in relation to Indigenous people. The group tackles issues including segregated residential schools, the denial of citizenship rights, loss of language, and mass incarceration, many of which persist or continue to be stumbling blocks in the relationship between Indigenous people and the Government of Canada today.
This short film tells the tale of the men who drove big freighter canoes into the wilderness in the days when the fur trade was Canada's biggest business. The film recreates scenes of the early 19th century with a soundtrack by an all-male chorus.
Ages 13 to 17
History - Early Canadian Exploration (1600s-1800s)
History and Citizenship Education - Official Powers and Countervailing Powers (1608-present)
History and Citizenship Education - Population and Settlement (1608-present)
Indigenous Studies - History/Politics
In history class we all studied the trading activities of the Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Yet there is barely a mention of Révillon Frères. It would be interesting to compare the trading practices of the three companies and to understand their marketing methods, their land occupation policies and the indispensable treaties they made with the First Nations. Is there currently an industry in Canada that uses methods of domination to control its territory? What are the consequences of these commercial choices?