Indigenous ways of knowing and systems of governance dominated North America for millennia. When European traders arrived on the shore of far-away Hudson Bay 1670, Indigenous systems would be disrupted by large-scale trade. These European strangers moved north and west, arriving in what is now the NWT in the 1700s. The new trade relationships did not parallel traditional leadership systems, including the role of women in various Indigenous societies. The changes affected relations between Indigenous groups and also within them.
The earliest foreigners were European fur traders. By the early 1700s, their goods – guns, copper pots, metal tools, tea, and tobacco – were traded far inland. Close on the heels of the traders came itinerant Christian missionaries. European explorers came looking for fur, profit, and the Northwest Passage, the elusive sea route connecting Europe with Asia across the top of North America.