While the overall effects of European colonization were detrimental to indigenous people, the fur trade offered highly attractive economic benefits to groups such as the Ojibwe and Cree throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Trade allowed indigenous people to offset their usual intake by trading the pelts of the many animals they hunted for dry goods and other resources—especially items such as kettles, knives, awls, and axes, which could replace or supplement bark and pottery containers and stone tools. Other items, such as cloth, trade beads, tobacco and “exotic” trade goods soon became important to survival and prosperity, and economic trapping came to be a central part of life. In terms of cultural changes brought on by the fur trade, incorporating economic trapping into the culture fostered specialization and resulted in new roles for both men and women. The upsurge of the fur trade also encouraged increased production of maple sugar and wild rice, a growth in agriculture, and even in how annual fishing was conducted.
Trade with Europeans in Minnesota began as early as the late 1600s when French and English traders started to make contact with the many Ojibwe and Cree bands living around Lake Superior—with some movements towards the interior areas near the Mississippi. However, these trading expeditions tended to be short lived and sporadic ventures until the resolution of the hostilities of the French and Indian Wars. During this early period, several notable regional posts were established included: Fort St. Pierre, built by La Vérendrye in 1732 at the outlet of Rainy Lake, and Fort St. Charles, established in 1732 at the northern-most point of the Northwest Angle by La Vérendrye. Once the Europeans settled their scores, the English began to make overtures to tribes in the region at Fond du Lac (1763) and at Grand Portage (1767) which allowed them to make stronger connection to the Ojibwe in the interior. This allowed them to establish posts further inland where rich beaver grounds could be found.
From 1767 to 1800, the Hudson Bay Company and Northwest Company established several posts—mostly in Canada—which were an economic draw to the regional tribes. The Hudson Bay Company established Fort Frances near the location of La Vérendrye’s previous Fort St. Pierre venture. The Hudson Bay Company effort was matched by the X Y Company who also situated a post nearby. Other posts were established at Thief River (1794), upper Red Lake (1784 and 1790), lower Red Lake (1794), and the Red Lake River (1798).
After 1800, the Americans jumped in the fur trade, establishing posts near Pembina and Park River, North Dakota, in 1800, Turtle River (North Dakota) in 1802, and a small post was also established at Warroad in 1820. The Americans also established a post at Lake of the Woods (near the outlet of Rainy River) in 1820. This post was matched by the British at Rainy Lake in 1823.
During the 1840s, posts were established at Roseau Lake (in Roseau County, Minnesota) by both the British and American traders due to the proximity to both Canadian and Minnesota markets and the existence of several well-established Ojibwe villages in the area. The Americans started their post under the authority of Norman Kittson, while the Hudson Bay Company led the British effort. Both posts were abandoned by 1851.
One of the last posts operated in the area was Hungry Hall, a Hudson Bay post situated at the north side of the mouth of the Rainy River. This small post persisted until 1872.