Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Listening to the Fur Trade

Friday, September 23rd, 2022 @ 7:00 pm

Gathering Space, John E. Robbins Library


Event Navigation

An illustration of people dancing as others clap and fiddle
Daniel Laxer will present Listening to the Fur Trade on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m., in the Gathering Space of the John E. Robbins Library.

As fur traders were driven across northern North America by economic motivations, the landscape over which they plied their trade was punctuated by sound: shouting, singing, dancing, gunpowder, rattles, jingles, drums, fiddles, and – very occasionally – bagpipes. Fur trade interactions were, in a word, noisy. Daniel Laxer unearths traces of music, performance, and other intangible cultural phenomena long since silenced, allowing us to hear the fur trade for the first time.

Book cover features an illustration of a person playing the fiddle
The cover of Daniel R. Laxer’s book, Listening to the Fur Trade

Listening to the Fur Trade uses the written record, oral history, and material culture to reveal histories of sound and music in an era before sound recording. The trading post was a noisy nexus, populated by a polyglot crowd of highly mobile people from different national, linguistic, religious, cultural, and class backgrounds. They found ways to interact every time they met, and facilitating material interests and survival went beyond the simple exchange of goods. Trust and good relations often entailed gift-giving: reciprocity was performed with dances, songs, and firearm salutes. Indigenous protocols of ceremony and treaty-making were widely adopted by fur traders, who supplied materials and technologies that sometimes changed how these ceremonies sounded. Within trading companies, masters and servants were on opposite ends of the social ladder but shared songs in the canoes and lively dances during the long winters at the trading posts.

While the fur trade was propelled by economic and political interests, Listening to the Fur Trade uncovers the songs and ceremonies of First Nations people, the paddling songs of the voyageurs, and the fiddle music and step-dancing at the trading posts that provided its pulse.

A man stands in front of leaves
Dr. Daniel R. Laxer

Dr. Daniel R. Laxer graduated with his B.A. in History and Music from the University of Alberta and went on to study histories of music and sound in the fur trade for his M.A. at York University and Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. He has published in numerous academic journals such as Ontario History, The Journal of Canadian Studies, and Material Culture Review. His newly published book, Listening to the Fur Trade is part of the Early Canada / Avant le Canada series of McGill-Queen’s University Press. He currently works as a historical researcher for the Negotiations and Reconciliation Division of Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

Brandon University is committed to being an accessible institution. To ensure that any event is available to all who are interested in attending, please advise us in advance of any accessibility considerations. Accessibility contact: communications@brandonu.ca


Friday, September 23rd, 2022
7:00 pm
Event Categories:
, ,
Event Tags:


Faculty of Education