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The difference between needs and wants (SK)

Subject Area: Social Studies

Link(s) to the Saskatchewan Social Studies Curriculum:
  • Factors that influence population movement.
  • Quality of life (environmental, social, cultural, government factors).
Brief Overview of the Lesson:

The students will think about the reasons why people settled in Canada. They will read about the fur trade and the needs and wants of the First Nations and the settlers. They will identify the changes it made to the lives of both groups.

Estimated Time Required for Implementation:

One class period

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article “The Fur Trade in North America”

Suggested Implementation Strategy:
  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to identify items that have caused people or countries to explore or settle new areas in order to obtain that material. Provide the students with two examples to help them begin: salt routes were established to bring salt to countries to use to preserve food; England established trade routes to India to obtain spices.
  • Make a list of their suggestions and ensure that Aboriginal people traded furs for goods and people wanting a better way of life are included in the list.
  • Once this list has been completed, pair up the students and have them discuss and list ways in which the fur trade helped to settle Canada.
  • Allow a few minutes for the pairs to discuss the question and then have them report their ideas to the class.
  • Ask if they know why the furs were in such demand and have them offer answers.
  • Give them a copy of the following article to read: The Fur trade in North America.
  • Ask them to outline how the fur trade both helped and hurt the relationship between the Europeans and the First Nations people.
  • Draw their attention to the fact that all of this development came about because of a fashion craze in Europe and the money that was to be made because of it.
  • Ask them to explain how attitudes towards the use of fur for clothing have changed and why they have changed.
  • Ask if they think the quality of life for the First Nations improved as a result of the fur trade.
  • Ask them to explain the difference between a NEED and a WANT.

Needs are things that we truly can’t be without, such as nutritious food and a place to live.

Wants are things you’d like to have, but if you don’t, you’ll still survive (in fact, you’ll be just fine), for example, designer jeans, toys.

  • Ask the students to go back and examine the list of items they made at the beginning of the period and have them indicate which ones they think are needs and which ones are wants.
  • Have them explain why they think it is important for people to know the difference between needs and wants.
  • Explain to them that a financially responsible person knows the difference and allocates their money to ensure that the needs are met before the wants are purchased.
  • Assess the discussion about needs and wants, and why they think it is financially important for people to know the difference.
Options for Consideration:
  • The students could debate whether or not the majority of exploration was done to meet needs or wants.
Possible Links to the Home Program:
  • Ages 11–13 – On the Web – Wants and Needs
Extended Learning Opportunities:
  • The students could outline the routes of exploration that occurred primarily because of the fur trade and describe how those furs were transported to Europe.


The Fur Trade in North America

The fur trade played an important role in the history of North America. For nearly 250 years, from the early 17th to the mid-19th century, the fur trade was a vast commercial enterprise across a wild, forested expanse.

Europeans, who wanted to be fashionable, didn’t know at the time that they were actually helping to develop our country.

The fashion that was so desired was the beaver hat. These hats became a fashion rage that spread all over Europe. European clothiers had used fur for many centuries to trim coats. European beavers were dying out because of over-hunting, and the new fashions, like hats, required a lot of beaver felt.

Also, on cold winter nights, in homes with no central heating, furs were used as blankets.

But where would they find the furs?

Traders traveled all over North America looking for beaver pelts to supply the demand in Europe. These fur traders traveled by water, as there were few roads at this time in North America. They mapped the rivers and lakes, which, in turn, helped future development.

The traders met the First Nations people, who were eager to do business with them. The fur traders were known as the “coureurs de bois” and were friends with the First Nations people.

When the waterways froze during the winter, which made travel impossible, the traders often stayed in the native villages until spring. Not only did they learn to speak native languages, they also learned how to survive in the wilderness.

They established an economic interdependence. The traders needed furs to sell to the European clothiers, and the native people wanted goods to make their lives easier.

The native people knew how to trap beavers. The traders had brought goods such as hatchets, pots, shoes, fabrics and glass beads to exchange for beaver pelts. The cost of these goods was measured in beaver pelts, for example, one pot = 5 beaver pelts, one hatchet = 10 beaver pelts. Often there was a long discussion, bartering over the price.

The fur trade determined the relatively peaceful patterns of Aboriginal-European relations in North America. A central social aspect of this economic enterprise was extensive intermarriage between traders and Aboriginal women, which gave rise to an indigenous fur-trade society that blended Aboriginal and European customs and attitudes. The fur trade filled a need and a want, for both groups.