Native American Furs

Old Fort Colville trading post in
Washington territory

Native American Furs
Facts and information about the History of Clothing and regalia of Native American Indians and their Native American Furs. There were many Furs obtained by the Native Indian tribes who inhabited all the areas across the continent of North America. The Native Indian furs were originally used to make various types of clothing for both practical and decorative reasons.

European explorers and traders discovered the rich bounty of the lands during the late 1500's and the lucrative fur trade began. Beaver was of particular interest due to the European fashion of wearing hats made of beaver. When the demand for beaver declined it was replaced by the the massive trade in deerskin.

Native American Furs Fact Sheet

  • Fur trading between the Indian tribes and European colonists began in the late 1500s and lasted until the late 1800s. During this period the demand for fur was surging in Europe.
  • Native American Furs Fact 1: There were over 30 different types of animal species that were hunted to meet the market for furs and leather
  • Native American Furs Fact 2: The names of the animals found in North America included the Eastern Elk, Polar Bear, Cougar, the Northern Flying Squirrel, Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Beaver, Buffalo, Woodland Caribou, Bobcat, Lynx, Wolf, Fox, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Badger, Raccoon, Marmot, Fisher, the Least and Long-tailed Weasels, Stoat, Marten, Mink, Muskrat, Antelope, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Mountain Goat and the River Otter
  • Native American Furs Fact 2: Trading posts were established by the French, English, German, Scandinavian and Russian traders across the North American continent.
  • Native American Furs Fact 3: The trade in furs and animal skins led to battles and the wars between European nations to gain monopolization of the fur trade. The first such conflict was known as the Beaver Wars (1640-1701). It was later followed by the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763)
  • Native American Furs Fact 4: The Beaver trade fell into decline and was replaced by the trade in Deerskins.
  • Native American Furs Fact 5: The demand for pelts and skins was so great that it led to the extermination of animals such as the American Elk and the Eastern cougar, and the near extinction of the Polar Bear. Deer were also hunted to near extinction but the population rose when European demand for deerskins significantly declined
  • Native American Furs Fact 6: Native Americans and fur trappers and fur traders used furs instead of money. Deerskins were worth a dollar and the origin of the dollar's nickname of a "buck", in reference to a male deer
  • Native American Furs Fact 7: Following the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were tasked with exploring the new American lands. It was the responsibility of Meriwether Lewis to record the new animals that they encountered on their long journey. The fur and skin trade was of great importance to increasing the trade and wealth of the country
  • Native American Furs Fact 8: The Eastern elk was hunted into extinction by early settlers. It was hunted for its hide and its antlers
  • Native American Furs Fact 9: Excessive hunting for their precious hides of the Polar Bear in the Arctic regions of America helped significantly reduce their numbers
  • Native American Furs Fact 10: The Eastern cougar, aka puma or panther, was another animal hunted to extinction
  • Native American Furs Fact 11: Coyote fur was especially prized among Native American Indians because it is a natural insulator. Coyote fur was used to make shirts and coats and used as decoration on headdresses
  • Native American Furs Fact 12: Deerskin hides and Buffalo hides were used to make clothing such as dresses, shirts, tunics and moccasins. The Buffalo was deliberately hunted to the point of extinction as a strategy to end the Native American Indian culture and way of life
  • Native American Furs Fact 13: Animals such as the muskrat and the marten remained abundant, but prices for these pelts were often low
  • Native American Furs Fact 14: The pelts of mink and otter became a valuable trading commodity
  • Native American Furs Fact 15: The Parkas made by Arctic tribes were usually trimmed with the fur of the Arctic wolf, wolverine, husky dog, coyote for with the tail of an Arctic fox. Their clothes and Mukluk boots were made from sealskin
  • Native American Furs Fact 16: Because of their abundance, red foxes were among some of the most important animals harvested by the fur trade
  • Native American Furs Fact 17: Skunk fur was also abundant and described and marketed as "Alaska sable"
Native American Clothing
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