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The Barter System


The barter system is where people trade goods or services for other goods and services without the use of money. For example, someone may trade grain for a fur coat, or someone may trade food in exchange for help with a harvest. Bartering can be tricky because both people must agree that the trade is fair.

The barter system was used when fur traders would trade items for furs with Indigenous people in exchange for knowledge of the land, food, and shelter. Indigenous people would also trade between Indigenous Nations.


This style of trading still happens today but it is much more regulated than it was back in Canada’s early history. The barter system was used before Canada’s confederation, during the fur trade, and when settlers first came to Canada. Many people did not have money but needed to exchange goods and services with each other in order to survive. The barter system was used in Canada between people and even businesses. In fact, the barter system was sometimes used between countries.

The barter system was used between this woman and store clerk. The woman is trading a basket of potatoes for a bag of flour.

Learn more about the barter system and how this unique trading system works.