Amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company


Following the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company in 1821, the type of employment that Indigenous men were able to secure changed drastically. Before the amalgamation of the two companies, Indigenous men were paid an equal salary to their European counterparts, and were able to work in a wide range of positions. Some men were even able to secure the coveted position of officer. Their skills as hunters and trappers were valued, and men with ambition, regardless of ethnicity, were rewarded with more responsibility and more prestigious positions. However, after the amalgamation in 1821, Indigenous men were no longer afforded the luxury of vertical movement within the company. They were confined to servant and labourous jobs and were openly discriminated against. It also became a rarity for Indigenous men to secure contracted work, which they had done previously. Instead, they were often restricted to being hired only seasonally. The Hudson's Bay Company also used Indigenous workers as a means of controlling European workers. They had Indigenous men perform tasks that the European men refused to do, and the company hired Indigenous workers at a lower wage than European workers to drive competition at a time where jobs were scarce.



The amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company had profoundly negative implications for Indigenous men. The amalgamations saw the implementation of a hierarchy that was based on ethnicity. Indigenous men were excluded from economic mobility and were left only with the positions at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Without the opportunity to advance economically, many Indigenous men were doing intense physical labour for very little pay; failing to compensate men for their work resulted in many men and their families living in newly impoverished conditions because they were seen is disposable by the HBC. The hierarchy which developed is reflected in the inequitable power-relations between Indigenous men and European/Canadian societies and settlers. It was, and can remain, challenging to find consistent and meaningful work due to the way Canadian society has internalized and externalized prejudice and racism against Indigenous men.  


  • Judd, Carol M. "Native labour and social stratification in the Hudson's Bay Company's Northern Department. 1770–1870." Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie 17, no. 4 (1980): 305-314.


Sub Event
Decline in work for Indigenous men