Off-Campus History

Episode 16 - The Revenant with Sam Derksen

April 18, 2022

On today’s podcast, we’re talking about the 2015 film The Revenant!

This movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a fur trader in the western United States in the early 1820s who goes on an epic quest for revenge. The movie saw significant financial and critical success; it grossed over $530 million USD worldwide, and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning three.

Today we dig into the movie’s portrayal of the fur trade. Was the fur trade really as violent as it seems in the movie? Does the film accurately capture the relationships between different Indigenous nations and European/American traders? How would the fur trade look different in other fur trading regions of the continent, and in other periods of the fur trade?

To answer all these questions and much more, I’m joined by Sam Derksen. Sam is a PhD Candidate at McGill University and an expert on the history of the fur trade. His current research focuses on the history of the North West Company, a major fur trader in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

For those of you interested in reading a book covering some of the themes we discuss in this time and region, check out Elizabeth A. Fenn’s book on the Mandan people Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People (New York: Hill and Wang, 2014). For those who’d like to read a classic work on Indigenous-European/American relations in the fur trade, have a look at Richard White’s The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

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Podcast logo is made by https://www.instagram.com/nethkaria; music is from “Mystery,” recorded in 1919 by Paul Biese and his Novelty Orchestra. Follow the show on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/offcampushistory/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/offcampushistory)! You can also email the show at offcampushistory[at]gmail.com.

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