Trading Centres of the Western Native Americans c. 1650


Map Code: Ax01412

A filigree of well-traversed Native American trading routes covered western North America on the eve of European arrival. These were the arteries of a barter economy underpinned by certain staple forms of exchange. Transition zones between primarily agricultural and hunting populations would feature the trade of crops for meat. Rare minerals were highly prized: turquoise mined in New Mexico was traded for cacao and macaws from Mexico; copper from Lake Superior reached the Plains Indians via Mandan and Arikara middlemen. The Northwestern tribes traded dried salmon, oolichan (an oily fish used for lighting as well as food) and dentalium shells (of wide decorative and ritual use) through the Dalles emporium for bison hides, chert and obsidian. On the Great Plains, mobile trading fairs were hosted by the Shoshone. In the southwestern statelet of Corazones the shamans of the Bow Priesthood acted as mediators of trading activity.

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