The Atlantic voyage from Stromness, plus the harsh environment, could cause serious health problems, such as scurvy, for Hudson’s Bay Company workers. They had doctors and apothecary chests but, as Dr Winona Wheeler of the University of Saskatchewan describes, they also used local Indigenous medicines from the Swampy Cree and Rock Cree people. Some, such as beaver castor, muskrat root and Seneca snakeroot, were so effective that the Company expanded its trade to acquire them.
There’s more background in the feature ‘The Cures of Hudson’s Bay’ in our online magazine, Frontiers.
“These Orkney men were pretty tough so that really impressed the Crees that these guys could pull their weight in this country. But they didn’t have the skills to survive on the land, so those skills were shared and it wasn’t long before you started seeing Hudson Bay Company men – especially servants, because they were poor – adopting Indigenous clothing like moccasins and furs for protection, and learning how to hunt and fish.”
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