For thousands of years Aboriginal people have lived and prospered on the land now called the Northwest Territories. In the past they depended on the plants, the animals and the spirits of this vast land for their survival. This all began to change in 1670 when strangers arrived on the shores of the far away Hudson Bay.
These were the fur traders and by the early 1700s their European goods – guns, copper pots, steel tools, tea, and tobacco – were beginning to be traded far inland. This not only began to affect the way Aboriginal people harvested the resources of their land but also had a dramatic effect on the balance of power between the various Dene groups.
By the middle of the 18th century southern Métis – mixed French Canadian and Cree – had crossed the Methy Portage in northern Saskatchewan to bring the fur trade directly to the Aboriginal people of the Northwest Territories. This was the beginning of what was to become a distinct cultural group, the Northern Métis.
Close on the heels of the Métis came the trader-explorers searching not only for new areas in which to conduct their trade but also for the Northwest Passage, that elusive route connecting Europe with the Far East across the top of North America.