In the eighteenth-century western Great Lakes, the French and British established forts to guard a highly profitable fur trade. Places like Fort Michilimackinac became synonymous with the fur trade. In warmer regions an equally profitable Indian-controlled fur trade also took place. This article examines the Wabash River valley trade and shows how two Indian villages, Kethtippecanuck and Miamitown, dominated the exchange process. Economics and sociability were intertwined in this flourishing region. Trade took place between friends and relatives, defined by the reciprocity embedded in the kin networks of Indian women. Indian women processed the furs, which allowed them to exert pressure on the exchange process, transforming the fur trade into the cloth trade. Women’s access to trade goods enhanced their authority, and their access to cloth led to a flowering of Indian clothing styles, situating them at the heart of a highly prosperous fur trade.

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