Friends, Foes, and Furs: George Nelson’s Lake Winnipeg Journals
George Nelson (1786-1859) was a clerk for the North West Company whose unusually detailed and personal writings provide a compelling portrait of the people engaged in the golden age of the Canadian fur trade.
Friends, Foes, and Furs is a critical edition of Nelson’s daily journals, supplemented with exciting anecdotes from his “Reminiscences,” which were written after his retirement to Lower Canada. An introduction and annotations by Harry Duckworth place Nelson’s material securely within the established body of fur trade history. This series of journals gives readers a first-person account of Nelson’s life and career, from his arrival at the age of eighteen in Lake Winnipeg, where he was stationed as an apprentice clerk from 1804 to 1813, to his second service from 1818 to 1819 and an 1822 canoe journey through the region. A keen and respectful observer, Nelson recorded in his daily journals not only the minutiae of his work, but also details about the lives of voyageurs, the Ojibwe and Swampy Cree communities, and others involved in the fur trade. His insights uncover an extraordinary view of the Lake Winnipeg region in the period just prior to European settlement.
Making the full extent of George Nelson’s journals available for the first time, Friends, Foes, and Furs is an intriguing account of one man’s adventures in the fur trade in prairie Canada.