Trade Silver: North America’s Jewelry Heritage

In the 1500s, European traders began arriving on the shores of North America, spurred by European fashion demands for fur pelts. Fur was highly prized in Europe and used in many clothing fashions, and pelts such as those of the black beaver—used in the manufacture of top hats—were particularly desirable. As the Europeans established themselves in the New World, they became acquainted with the tribes of Native Americans living along the eastern coast. These included the Delaware, Algonquin, and Ottawa as well as the Iroquois Nation—five powerful tribes that came to power in the area of New York State in 1390. These five tribes—the Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Mohawk—formed an alliance in the 1500s and added a sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, around 1715. A form of commerce soon sprang up between the two cultures. In exchange for pelts, the Europeans offered Native Americ
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