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The Trade Gathering

A trade gathering was not just a casual encounter where nothing was planned. On the contrary, there was a formal protocol to be respected. Usually, the nation that hosted the other groups on its territory set up a camp close to the trading place, which was located next to a river. The women, children and elderly stayed in the camp, just across the river from the trading place. Only the men took part in trading activities.

On arriving the members of each group sat on the ground behind their chief. When everyone was present, the speeches began. The chiefs did not speak for themselves, they spoke on behalf of their entire nation. They spoke of the alliances that their nation wished to renew and the war parties they wished to organize. They also presented the other chiefs with gifts from their nation.

Among the First Nations sharing wealth was a means of creating ties. Therefore, the exchange of gifts between two nations was very important for strengthening their alliance. Not offering gifts was considered an insult and made it impossible to trade or form an alliance. Gifts were offered at each encounter as a reminder of the alliance.

Often, after a chief had spoken, the groups gathered to discuss what had been said and decide what answer to give. In the evening everyone took part in the feast and smoked tobacco. There were also dances and contests of skill were organized. All the chiefs made speeches. This could last for several days.

After the speeches everyone joined in the festivities. Trading began the next morning and could last all day. The following day, each group thanked the nation that had hosted them on its territory and said goodbye... until next year.