By Robert Mueller
Publication by means of Mueller, Robert
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After the HBC expanded to the northwest following the 1821 merger with its long-time rival, the NWC explorers working along the Liard and Mackenzie rivers found numerous signs of the extensive reach of the Russian trade. 4 Regular native trade within and between regions pre-dated the arrival of European traders. The distribution of indigenous resources was such that most groups possessed an abundance of particular commodities, but lacked other useful supplies. Native groups traded their local surplus for goods not readily available and developed institutional arrangements to'facilitate exchange.
Native trading systems proved influential as the HBC expanded into the Yukon River basin. Following the discovery of the Colville River by Thomas Simpson and Peter Warren Dease in 18377 the firm undertook a two-pronged exploration of the region west of the Mackenzie River. In both instances, the Natives' desire to protect their trading interests impeded the progress of the fur-trade explorers. The Indians realized the importance of maintaining a monopoly over both a source of supply and a trading district.
The general pattern of post-contact Yukon history is easily described. As noted, direct contact with Europeans began in the 18405, when traders from the HBC and the Russian American Fur Company reached the upper Yukon River basin. The fur trade remained the chief point of interaction between Natives and nonNatives until an expanding gold-mining sector reached the region in the i88os. The miners' discoveries were slim at first, sufficient to encourage continued exploration but not rich enough to stimulate great interest.