Grand Portage on Lake Superior becomes the western headquarters of the new North West (fur) Company. From here the British dominate the North American fur trade until Americans arrive in the early 1800s.*
Grand Portage is both a place and a route. The route refers to an 8 1/2 mile portage that starts at the settlement and ends at the Pigeon River, above its waterfalls. Traveling from there through the many lakes along the Canadian Shield, a person could reach the Pacific or the Arctic Ocean without carrying a canoe much farther than the Grand Portage itself.
People and goods could reach Grand Portage, the place, from the East via the Great Lakes, from the South by the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, and from the West by the Grand Portage route. That location had been a central meeting point for trade long before Europeans came looking for furs. Once the fur trade began, Grand Portage also became a port–the westernmost point where goods could be delivered from the east coast by ship.
It is hard for us to imagine in this present era why fur could be so sought after. For moderns, it is a luxury that is contentious and risky to wear despite its beauty. Most of us don’t know that our world experienced a small “Ice Age” and these European explorers were driven to find furs, like native Minnesotans, because of their warmth.
Will you forgive any judgments of North West Company? We show loyalty to our beloved brands of outerwear like: Columbia, North Face, Filson, Orvis, L.L. Bean etc. We buy these brands because we are convinced they are the best for our purpose. Yet, we have hated those companies who saw the beaver and said, “This is the best source material for warmth, comfort, and style.” Will You forgive our arrogance towards a company that saw an opportunity, provided work to both Native and European Minnesotans, and created useful and beautiful items for trade?
This brings me to ponder that You created fur to shield Your beloved creatures: the mink, the beaver, and the fox to name a few. I am in awe of your artistry in these first “fur coats”?! This day I thank You for the meaning of fur: first to the animals, then to Native Americans, European explorers and traders, and finally to the state of Minnesota!
Not only did You create this astonishingly warm fur, but provided a waterway to it! Thanks that you revealed Grand Portage to Indians, who shared it with the French and English who further established this trade route and town! Will You forgive our conflicts over the fur trade? Will You forgive our grudges, past, present, and leave a blessing?
*Note – PrayThroughHistory uses the timeline located for several years at the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm . The current URL is www.dipity.com/Minnesota/History/Minnesota-History/ and only works if typed, not pasted, in browser. It is worth the effort!