Decades of interaction saw great changes for the Ojibwe
The first recorded contacts between Europeans and the Ojibwe began in the 1640s in the Great Lakes region. The majority of contact revolved around trade and early attempts at establishing missions among the tribes.
By the middle of the 1700s, Ojibwe groups spread into Manitoba, Minnesota, and beyond. Montreal-based Canadian traders were moving westward to compete with the English Hudson's Bay Company which was extending its trade into the interior of the vast Hudson Bay watershed known as Rupert's Land. After a few decades, many Ojibwe ― who had long associated with the Canadians ― began to intermarry with them "according to the custom of the country." Soon, the region from the Great Lakes to the far northwest saw a sizable population of mixed-blood people arising. Depending on circumstances, these mixed-blood children might remain with maternal relatives and identify as Ojibwe; or they might instead connect with others in the growing population of others who began to see themselves as ethnically distinct: the Metis.
As this demographic change was occurring, European fur traders began to actively pursue contacts with Ojibwe and Cree communities around the upper Great Lakes and into the prairies to meet European demands for beaver felt for hats. European trade goods, especially kettles, knives, awls, and axes, drew strong interest from the Ojibwe for their convenience and durability and tended to replace or supplement bark and pottery containers and stone tools; trade cloth, trade beads, tobacco, and alcohol were also in demand.
The fur trade fostered specialization. Ojibwe winter hunting and trapping began to focus more on securing the desired furs needed for trade. The Ojibwe increasingly expected traders to advance goods and provisions as "debts" to support fur production. Ojibwe women were essential as processors of leather and furs; their workload in this sphere increased as the trade grew, although metal tools eased many of their customary tasks.
See more at Brown, and John Beierle. 2000. “Culture Summary: Ojibwa.” New Haven, Conn.: HRAF.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities