The Red River cart was capable of carrying nearly a thousand pounds of cargo – faster and several times more efficiently than a horse-draw travois – especially when linked together into a wagon train of several dozen carts.
A historical example describes the amazing construction and capacity of the Red River cart:
“The carts composing the train were of uniform make, and of a species called “Red River carts”. They are constructed entirely of wood, without any iron whatever, the axels and rims of the wheels forming no exception to the rule. Although this might at first sight appear a disadvantage, as denoting a want of strength, yet it is really the reverse, because in the country traversed by these vehicles, wood is abundant and always to be obtained in quantities sufficient to mend any breakages which might take place. The only tool necessary, not only to mend but to construct a cart, are an axe, a saw, a screw-auger, and a draw knife...Each cart is drawn by an ox, and in cases where speed is an object, a horse is substituted. . .[with] the wiry little “Indian ponies”, one of which, with a load of four or five hundred pounds in the cart behind him, will overtake from fifty to sixty miles a day in a measured, but by no means hurried, jog trot. The common rate of progress made by heavy [ox] freight carts is about twenty miles a day, of traveling ten hours, the load averaging about eight hundred pounds per cart.”
The cart technology allowed the Métis to carry massive amounts of buffalo meat and hides not previously possible, and in a manner that moved beyond mere subsistence. The copious extras that could be carried were an economic weapon that helped provide a foundation for nationhood.
Hargrave, J. J. (2011). Red river. London: British Library, Historic.