THE TRADE Artist Statement
The Yukon Arts Centre
When Europeans first journeyed to North America in the 16th Century, they were seeking mineral riches, new discoveries and glory. Hopeful ships returned to Britain full of northern ore that was eventually deemed worthless. It was soon clear that riches were not to be found in the ground, but in soft, lustrous fur. Fox, wolf, rabbit, muskrat, otter and particularly beaver fur were in great demand by the European fashion industry and became a highly desirable commodity. Repeated quests for the Northwest Passage to the Orient failed miserably. While these treacherous journeys did not achieve their desired goal, they carved an icy path north to reveal an ocean rich with whale oil and baleen. Explorers such as Franklin, Frobisher, Champlain, Hudson, Mackenzie, Cook and Vancouver established routes that were soon followed by a flood of trappers, traders and factors. First Nations, confronted with the mounting flow of Europeans, were able to utilize their local knowledge and hunting skills to engage in this New World trade. Fashion, religion, science and economics together reshaped the environment and dramatically changed life for the animals of North America.
This exhibition examines this period in history.