The Assiniboine and Chippewa were originally fierce rivals. In the 18th century, the Chippewa migrated westward into the Assiniboine’s traditional hunting grounds in the Canadian Great Plains, gaining dominance through musketry and horses obtained from trade with the French. However, by the 1740s, early explorers observed the tribes operating in concert, both in warfare and commerce, forming, together with the Cree, the ‘Iron Confederacy’. This alliance was mutually beneficial, enabling them to control the lucrative fur trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and its competitors. Through the sale of beaver furs and bison hides, they were able to obtain metal goods, textiles and, crucially, guns. The guns were mainly deployed against the Sioux, with whom they fought running wars over control of horses – a vital hunting/military accoutrement on the plains. In 1840, the Confederacy was at its prime, but rapid decline of bison herds thereafter would cause its collapse.
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