Deerskin Trade Definition: Definitions for the Clothing & fabric Industry

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The deerskin trade between Colonial America and the Native Americans was one of the most important trading relationships between Europeans and Native Americans, especially in the southeast. It was a form of the fur trade, but less famous since deerskins were not as elegant as furs from the north, like beaver. But the deerskin export was an important source of raw material for the European leather industry. The Spanish of Spanish Florida were the first to establish a trade in deerskins with Native Americans (Davis, 2000). Later, both the English and French expanded the trade, with the English eventually dominating.

Tribes such as the Cherokee and Creek, among others, supplied deerskins to traders, mostly from Charleston, South Carolina, in exchange for various trade goods such as iron tools, kettles, knives, firearms, ammunition, and gunpowder. The deerskin trade was vital to Charleston's early economy. The colony depended on the trade and worked hard to create strong alliances with the Cherokee and Creek suppliers. Between 1699 and 1715 an average of 54,000 deerskins were exported annually to Europe through Charleston (Drake, 2001). Between 1739 and 1761, the height of the deerskin trade era, the Cherokee slaughtered an estimated 500,000 to 1,250,000 deer. During the same period, Charleston records show an export of 5,239,350 pounds of deerskins (Davis, 2000). Charleston was not the only city to export deerskins. Between 1755 and 1772, more than 2.5 million pounds of deerskins (taken from approximately one million deer) were exported from the port of Savannah, Georgia. Virginia also participated in the trade. In addition, the Creek Indians sold some of their deerskins to the French and Spanish, and the Shawnee traded deerskins with colonies to the north.

So large was the scale that in time deer became nearly extirpated in the southeast. It also radically altered the society of the Cherokee, with men increasingly absent from towns for long periods to hunt deer, and a growing Cherokee dependence on European trade goods (Davis, 2000). By 1750, deer were becoming harder to find in Cherokee territory, while the tribe was simultaneously becoming entirely dependent on European trade goods, which contributed to growing tensions and conflict between the Indians of the southeast and the Europeans (as well as conflict between tribes).

Deerskins were used to produce buckskin as well as a chamoislike leather that was used for gloves, bookbinding, and many other things.


  • Drake, Richard B. "A History of Appalachia". University Press of Kentucky (2001).
  • Davis, Donald Edward. "Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians". University of Georgia Press: Athens (2000).

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The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (  10/13/06  Article modified by Apparel Search

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