1930s From Furs to Mines – An Emerging New Economy

Prior to the arrival of fur trade companies in the Northwest Territories in the late 1700s, Dene and Inuvialuit lived by what the land could provide. With guns, steel tools, copper pots, tobacco and tea their lives began to change and in order to obtain these goods a dependence on trapping slowly emerged. By the beginning of the twentieth century trapping was so firmly entrenched in everyday life that, alongside hunting and fishing, it was considered to be a traditional activity. The economy of the Northwest Territories was, up until the mid to late 1930s, based almost entirely on trapping and the fur trade.

The opening of Eldorado at Port Radium (map), Canada’s first radium/uranium mine in 1933 and the pouring of the north’s first gold brick at Yellowknife’s Con Mine in September of 1938 were turning points in northern history. While mineral exploration and development slowed during the Second World War rapid expansion after the war quickly left trapping behind as a mainstay of the northern economy. Some northern Aboriginal people were employed in this new industry as labourers, and others worked on the land assisting prospectors, but for the most part it excluded the Dene and Inuvialuit who, until the 1980s, mostly depended on trapping to make a living.

Today, for every dollar earned trapping in the Northwest Territories more than two thousand dollars is earned from gold and diamond mining.

Timeline Link: 1934 Yellowknife Johnny

Timeline Link:1935 Dr. Alfred Jolliffe