History of Trappers and Traders
Over a 10-year period (2005-2014), the SAS undertook investigations an archaeological site believed to be the Hudson Bay Company South Branch House that was occupied from 1786-1794. The site is about an hour north of Saskatoon on the South Saskatchewan River. The SAS invited school classes to participate in the excavations and hosted a public field school almost every year.
During this time, the game’s original concept was designed to enhance the on-site experience and enable a heightened understanding of the people who lived, worked and traded at the post. It also helped the students connect the physical artifacts they were excavating to the people who used and traded them in the past. Early versions of the game were used for several years and were simple clip-art images glued onto construction paper.
Students and teachers alike loved the game and began asking the SAS for copies. We also began incorporating the game into our own educational programming at schools, museums and outreach events.
Again, we kept getting requests for the game, so we decided to create a commercial version. SAS member Ms. Sandra Walker was commissioned to illustrate the trade items for the cards with simple but elegant pencil crayon drawings.
Many of the items are based on actual artifacts recovered from the site or were written about in the South Branch House journals.
The SAS self-produced six copies of a second prototype and piloted the game with several school boards across Saskatchewan. We also worked with the Métis Cultural Program at Westmount School and the game has been part of their Métis Day of Learning since it’s inception in 2016.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and several suggested changes were incorporated, including the inclusion of four languages (y-dialect Cree, Michif, French and English) on each card. This recognizes and respects the importance and urgency of Indigenous language revitalization and our hope is that the cards will be used for language learning.
Game Production and Distribution
In 2017, the SAS undertook a fundraising campaign to fund the commercial production of the game. We were successful for a grant from the Dakota Dunes Community Development Corporation and raised almost $1700 from individual donors. With this funding, we were able to keep the price-point at $35+tax and distributed 57 complementary games to schools in the province.
We produced 850 copies of the game in late July of 2018 and have focused our marketing to schools. As of March 01, 2019, we have sold over 300 games. Most have been to educators in Saskatchewan, but we have had sales from Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta as well as New York, Wisconsin and as far away as Mississippi! The game has a wide appeal and other organizations like museums and historical parks offering educational programming have also expressed an interest.
Check out our Fur Trade Game video! You can access it below:
The material culture of four different groups involved in the fur trade, First Nations, Métis, the Hudson Bay Company, and the Northwest Company is showcased in the game. Students are divided into four groups representing each one of these groups. Each group is given a list of items they need to trade for, and 21 trading cards representing the items they must trade with. The winner of the game is the group that acquires all their needed items first. It is collaborative, strategy-based and requires players to communicate their intentions as they interact both verbally and physically with the other groups.
The outcomes of the Trappers and Traders game are to:
- demonstrate trading concepts such as resource availability, market, strategy, negotiation etc.,
- provide a dynamic teaching tool to supplement curriculum that incorporates archaeology,
- familiarize players with the concepts of material culture; and
- raise awareness of regional and national history, and how events and practices from a few hundred years ago are still affecting descendants of those participants.
The Teacher’s Guide provides a detailed background on the fur trade and the events at South Branch House. It shows where the game, or elements of the game, can be used to achieve curriculum outcomes in almost all subject areas, especially in Grades 4-9 that have a focus on First Nation, Métis, the fur trade and treaty relations. The game is particularly compatible with educators wishing to incorporate land-based teachings. The guide provides additional information for each item, such as how it was prepared, constructed or used and why it was important or relevant in the fur trade. Several game variations are suggested to mimic fur trade events and to ensure that it is suitable for all ages. Variations keep the game fresh for students who have previously played it. A list of discussion questions can be used as a catalyst to examine topics such as trade, nation building, archaeology, Indigenous-Crown relations and colonization. It is available for free download here.
Additional score pads are also available as a free download here.
In 2019, the SAS began #TrappersandTradersTuesdays on our social media channels. Each post is dedicated to one of the cards from the game with additional information from the Teacher’s Guide.
The Canadian Homeschooler’s review of the game can be found here.
If you have educators looking for an engaging way to bring the fur trade to life for middle years and secondary students, I highly recommend the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society’s Trappers and Traders: A Fur Trade Card Game as it’s affordable, interactive, culturally relevant and fun” J. Letendre, Indigenous Perspectives Consultant, Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division.
The fur trading game went awesome. Kids loved it. They were bartering back and forth for a long time. I have already recommended it to some co-workers. A. Lalonde, Grade 7 Teacher
“Trappers and Traders really has the students engaged. They honestly fight to participate. The game promotes critical thinking and problem solving, as well as insists on collaboration. The students are exposed to numerous problems within this real world Fur Trade simulation that they have to solve. Trappers and Traders shows students the birth of our economy and allows students to figure out the value of what their particular group has to trade. It aligns perfectly to various outcomes and curricular indicators. It’s a perfect segue to many other social studies projects (humanities). Highly recommend!” Kolin W., Grades 8 & 9 Social Studies and senior History Teacher
The Saskatchewan Archaeological Society would like to thank the following for their contributions to the Trappers and Traders Fur Trade Card Game:
- Talina Cyr-Steenkamp, former Executive Director, for the original game concept
- Sandra Walker, for the artwork
- many Saskatchewan teachers and students for playing the draft versions of the game and providing valuable feedback
- individual Donors
- French, Cree, and Michif translators
- Globe Printers, for their expertise
- Dakota Dunes Community Development Corporation, for providing a production grant
- SaskCulture Inc., for operational funding through Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation