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Fur trade society developed its own marriage rite, marriage Ó la fašon du pays (after the custom of the country), which combined both First Nations and European marriage customs.

Life was difficult and precarious for both sexes in nomadic Indian tribes, and other commentators felt that the women did not question their role which was essential for survival. However, it did not accord with European notions of femininity for women for women to be strong. The Hudson's Bay Company men found the unladylike strength of Chipewayan women particularly astonishing. On one occasion David Thompson sent one of his strongest men to help a Chipewyan woman who was hauling a heavy sled; to the man's surprise, it took all his strength to budge the load. The Chipewayan themselves took the superior strength of women for granted. As a famous chief Matonabbee declared, "Women... were made for labour; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do." Samuel Hearne perceived that the Chipewayan  evaluated women by different criteria than did the European. Physical prowess and economic skill took precedence over delicate features:

Ask a Northern Indian, what is beauty? he will answer, a broad flat face, small eyes, high cheek-bones.. a low forehead, a large broad chin, a clumsy hook-nose, a tawny hide, and breasts hanging down to the belt. Those beauties were greatly heightened, or at least rendered more valuable, when the possessor is capable of dressing all kinds of skins, converting them into the different parts of their clothing, and all to carry eight or ten stone in Summer, or haul a much greater weight in Winter.

The positions adopted by Indian women in labour, either squatting or kneeling over a low object, seemed to lessen the length and pain of parturition. Concerned at the lack of help and attention which "the sex" received in childbirth, Samuel Hearne endeavoured to explain to Indian women the benefits of the use of midwives as in Britain.. He was met with the contemptuous response that such interference was probably the cause of the humpbacks, bandy legs and other deformities which the Indians observed among their English visitors. James Isham, on the other hand, found Indian attitudes commendable. After observing how soon Cree women resumed their heavy work, he was prompted to suggest that Englishwomen were too often unnecessarily pampered. "I think it's only pride and ambition, that takes in Keeping their bed a full month, and putting a poor C'n to Charge and Experience for aught."

Isham also noticed that Indian women were not very prolific. Children were generally spaced two or three years apart. In attempting to account for this lack of fertility compared with European women, prevented conception. Indian mothers suckled their children for several years, never having recourse to wet nurses that was then common practice amongst the wealthier classes in Europe. The traders considered that such a long nursing period had a detrimental effect upon the women because it resulted in premature aging, but the Indians had their own reasons for supporting this practice. If children were weaned before the age of three, the Indian women at Severn House informed William Falconer, they would develop large bellies from having to drink too much water and this would make them poor travelers unable to withstand fatigue. Furthermore native women had to nurse their children until they were old enough to eat solid, adult fare. As one observer succinctly wrote:  "They give babies nothing but milk or else present them with a leg of goose."

The Europeans did comment favourably on the practicality of the Indian cradle which allowed the children, encased in soft skins, to be conveniently carried on its mother's back. A silky, dried, absorbent moss, which frequently changed, took the place of diapers. Isham thought this was such a "good Saving Method", dispensing with the trouble and expense of washing, drying and buying cloth for clouts, that it could be advantageously adopted by "the poor folks in our own Nation". 

Excerpt: "Many Tender Ties" pp 27-29