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Worth the Detour!

In order to trade, you had to be able to travel from one village to another. The trade routes in those days were the rivers and lakes, and required making portages. The means of transportation for all these expeditions was the canoe. Usually made of wood and bark, the canoes of the First Nations varied in size. For a trading expedition, they chose a canoe that could carry as much merchandise as possible.

The voyages could take several weeks. The travellers had to paddle for up to 12 hours a day! Whatever the weather, good or bad, they had to keep going. And don't forget that the canoes were filled with their baggage and the trade goods!

When they reached a section of the river that was impassable they had to portage, that is to say, carry the canoe on their shoulders overland until they reached a place where the river was navigable. And that wasn't all! After carrying the canoe to the new embarkation point, they had to go back and get their baggage and the merchandise. When everything had been transported they continued their voyage on the river.

In addition, trading between two villages belonging to different nations involved more than simply knowing the route. Establishing a route meant knowing someone in the village where you wanted to trade and making trading arrangements with him. If you did not know anyone in the village, you could not go and trade with them.