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Churchill River

Canada's River Heritage, Routes of the Fur Traders


Churchill River



Date of Issue

April 22, 1994




Postal Administration



Canada's River Heritage, Routes of the Fur Traders

Series Time Span


Perforation or Dimension



Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.


Designed by Malcolm Waddell Based on illustrations by Jan Waddell

About Stamp

Canada's fifth longest river, the Churchill rises in northwestern Saskatchewan and flows 1609 km, emptying into Hudson Bay at Churchill, Manitoba. It has been an important transportation route for over 2000 years and played a significant role in the fur trade for both the Hudson's Bay Company and the Northwest Company. In 1619, Norwegian-born explorer Jens Eriksen Munk was forced to winter at the mouth of the Churchill, where he and two others survived, but 59 crewsmen perished. This ill-fated voyage along with that of Henry Hudson in 1610 discouraged further exploration on the area until Radisson and Groseillers recognized its potential as a more direct link to the European markets. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) ("Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson Bay") was chartered in 1670 and by 1686 its fur traders had sailed into the Churchill River. English and French rivalry continued until the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht gave the HBC undisputed possession. In 1717, an HBC expedition from York Factory built a new post at the site of Munk's old camp called "Fort Churchill" and renamed "Prince of Wales Fort" in 1719. The French attacked the fortress in 1782 and ended its role as a trading post and military strongpoint. Trade later continued on a rebuilt post. As significant as it was, the Churchill fur trade depended upon Indians bringing furs to the post. The English had come to conduct a trading business only. They lacked the skills to develop the inland retail trade the French had mastered. They could neither build nor use canoes and had no ability to live off the land. The HBC faced new competition when Scottish merchants from Montreal sent traders and Canadian voyageurs into the interior to intercept furs bound for HBC posts. The North West Company (NWC) used the Churchill as part of its link between Montreal and the northern interior. Fort du Traite, the NWC's first post on the Churchill was built in 1774. Further expansion increased the rivalry and forced the HBC to push into the wilds. In 1821 the two companies merged but the route utilized by these "adventurers" and "voyageurs" existed for the remainder of the 19th century as the main water route to the Canadian northwest.
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Canada Post Corporation. Canada's Stamps Details, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1994, p. 12-13.

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