“The fur trade made people want to live in the Hudson Valley,” Colin Remick, a naturalist from the Madden Outdoor Education Center at PNW BOCES, told Fulmar Road Elementary School students during a recent presentation at the school. Speaking on the importance of beavers for trade and commerce among early settlers and Native Americans, Remick also engaged students with hands-on activities and a slide presentation.
“Beaver skins were used by the Native Americans to insulate wigwams because the waxy skin helped to keep the rain out,” Remick told students. “They even used it to line their canoes.”
Native Americans also used the highly sought-after beaver skins to trade with European settlers. “They didn’t need to understand each other’s languages to trade,” Remick said, “they would just set up a blanket and put items on it to be bartered or traded.”
Remick set up a “trading blanket” and gave students the chance to “barter” for goods such as skunk pelts, corn, soap a candle mold and a horseshoe. When asked to trade his skunk pelt for soap, one fourth grader wouldn’t agree until the other placed a horseshoe on the blanket. “I’ll take that,” he said, and a mutual fair trade took place.
“Everyone has soap today,” Remick said, “but back then it was a commodity.”
Students were excited by the hands-on learning of early American history. “This visit really ties in well with our unit on New York State history,” said Fulmar Road fourth grade teacher Maria Natiello. “It also fits in well with our review of animal adaptation in science.”