Bay Company Post, Dog Head [Point],
Lake Winnipeg, Man.
Archives of Canada/PA-050764
Tripping and Trapping
at Norway House
Adapt or expire - in the 19th century,
as the European fur trade pushed inexorably
westward, First Nations tribes had little
choice but to become part of the advancing
At the far northern tip of Lake Winnipeg,
the Swampy Cree of the Hudson Bay-Churchill
region were drawn to the Hudson's Bay Company's
strategic outpost of Norway House. Founded
in 1814 as a hastily erected shelter for
Norwegian road gangs in the employ of the
HBC, the post became a pivotal staging point
for fur trade traffic between the company's
York Factory headquarters, and the commercial
centre of Red River at the south end of
Lake Winnipeg. Aboriginal "freighters"
and trappers found employment at the
busy northern junction, supplying pelts
and joining the fleets of freight canoes
plying the lakes and rivers of the region.
They joined the fur brigades to Swan River,
Lake La Pluie, Island Lake and Red River,
often making long and difficult portages.
By the 1860's, a large and prosperous aboriginal
settlement, known as Rossville, had grown
up near the Norway House stockade, and British
missionaries had arrived to attend to the
business of Christian conversion.
But just as the Cree, encouraged by the
missionaries, began to congregate permanently
near the Norway House outpost, the era of
canoe freighting began to draw to a close.
Steamboats were beginning to make an appearance
on Lake Winnipeg, and the role of the "tripper"
began to decline.
a Lake Winnipeg Freighter
Canoe freighting on Lake Winnipeg
was a far cry from a leisurely
paddle in a slim-lined recreational
craft. Freight canoes were sturdy,
over-sized boats, propelled
by a carefully choreographed
sequence of rowing and paddling.
Portaging was an arduous part
of freighting, often requiring
several trips to transport heavy
cargos of furs and supplies.
- long leather head bands that
formed a harness for their load
- the freighters carried 60
kilogram bundles on their backs,
ferrying salt pork, flour, tea,
sugar, lard, canned goods, dried
milk, hardware, and ammunition
from one waterway to another.
Inch by inch, by the sweat of
the freighters' brows and the
brawn of their sturdy backs,
essential goods were transported
hundreds of kilometres through