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First Nations Trade, Specialization and Market Institutions (2010)

A Historical Survey of First Nation Market Culture


  • Specialization in production

  • Trading networks (exports and imports)

  • Public Infrastructure to support trade

  • Commercial laws, standards, and dispute resolution processes

  • Mediums of exchange

  • Property Rights

Although not an exhaustive survey of the evidence, this paper identifies twenty-five examples of specialization in trading networks among First Nations in the Americas, and presents three specific examples of complex trading networks. It presents one example of First Nation public infrastructure in Canada, and describes two types of commercial standards. Three First Nation mediums of exchange from across Canada and two individual property rights systems are also presented. This paper concludes that pre- and early contact First Nations in Canada had all of the elements associated with successful market culture, and recent legislation provides opportunities for contemporary First Nations to revive their traditional market cultures.


This paper connects the modern work being done by Fiscal Realities, the FMA institutions, and the Tulo Centre with the economic structures First Nations had in place prior to colonization.





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