The Fur Trader

From Oslo to Oxford House

By Einar Odd Mortensen Sr.
With Gerd Kjustad Mortensen
Edited by Ingrid Urberg & Daniel Sims
Categories: Indigenous Studies, History, Canadian History, Literature & Language Studies, Literary Criticism
Publisher: University of Alberta Press
Paperback : 9781772125986, 224 pages, August 2022
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781772126143, 224 pages, September 2022
Ebook (PDF) : 9781772126150, 224 pages, September 2022
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The following accessibility features are present:
  • Short alternative textual descriptions.
  • Single logical reading order.
  • A page list enables users to coordinate their reading with a statically paginated version.
  • Full alternative textual descriptions.
  • Contains a table of contents that provides direct access to all chapters of the text via links.

Table of contents


Acknowledgements ix

Introduction xi

Ingrid Urberg & Daniel Sims

Map xli


1 | North of the 53rd Parallel 1

2 | Alone at the Trading Post 17

3 | From Camp to Church 27

4 | From Greenhorn to Old-Timer 47

5 | Sons of the Wilderness 57

6 | Hudson’s Bay versus Free Trader 89

7 | Towards New Hunting Grounds 97

8 | Days at Oxford Lake 113

Epilogue 127


A Personal Perspective on the Author and the Book

Gerd Kjustad Mortensen

Reading Guide and Discussion Questions 137

Notes 141

Bibliography 167"



A critical edition of a Norwegian free trader’s account of the fur trade in Manitoba.


The Fur Trader is a critical edition of Einar Odd Mortensen Sr.’s personal narrative detailing the years (1925–1928) he spent as a free trader at posts in Pine Bluff and Oxford Lake in Manitoba during the waning days of the fur trade. Mortensen’s original narrative has been translated from Norwegian to English, and supplemented with a scholarly introduction, thorough annotations, a bibliography, and a reading guide. This additional material presents the author as a product of Norwegian culture at the time, and guides the reader through a close reading of Mortensen’s interpretations of his work and travels, the people he encountered, the Indian Residential School system, and Indigenous participation in the First World War. Mortensen’s insights and experiences will be of interest to scholars, students, and enthusiasts of the fur trade and contribute to literary, Indigenous, and Scandinavian studies.


  • Short-listed, Margaret McWilliams Award 2023


"[In The Fur Trader,] Mortensen’s narrative complements the many factual and fictional stories of Norwegians’ settlement successes and failures in North America during the mass migration of Scandinavians to the United States and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearly one hundred years later, Dr. Ingrid Urberg and Dr. Daniel Sims have contextualized within the contemporary scholarly landscape the narrative of this European migrant’s encounter with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people during his stay in Manitoba... The disciplinary pairing and collaboration of these two scholars of Scandinavian studies and First Nations studies increases the accessibility of the original text for all lifelong learners... [They provide the] neces­sary tools to unpack and situate Mortensen’s narrative in broader discourses of history, literature, environmental studies, Indigenous studies, and Scandinavian studies." Melissa Gjellstad, Prairie History, Spring 2023

"The Fur Trader describes a cultural encounter between margin and margin.... Urberg and Sims’ introduction thoughtfully addresses the more problematic issues with the memoir itself: compiled soon after Mortensen’s return to Oslo, it reflects the racism of the early twentieth century.... The book’s introduction and annotations will also be helpful to readers interested in the Norwegian context.... [The] collaboration between the editors and the Mortensen family has resulted in an engaging and relevant book that will appeal to a broad readership.” Katelin Marit, Scandinavian-Canadian Studies Journal, 2023

“The Fur Trader recovers and contextualizes a young Norwegian‘s engaging account of his encounters with the Canadian north during his three years as a fur trader in northern Manitoba in the 1920s.” Guðrún Björk Guðsteinsdóttir, University of Iceland

“… Canadian historians Ingrid Urberg and Daniel Sims…not only capture Mortensen’s compelling authorial voice, they also frame the work’s scholarly importance…. The linear notes also provide a well-spring of scholastic knowledge on a plethora of subjects including the historical application of insect repellents, sled dog husbandry, and the precise geographical locations of the author’s adventures. No stone is left unturned in the pursuit of contextualizing Mortensen’s experiences for the modern reader.” William W. Carroll, Western Historical Quarterly 2023 (Full review at

“The Fur Trader provides an outsider view of life in the fur trade in the 1920s and is a text to be studied for its perspective and tone as much as for its content. Readers who enjoy travel, exploration, and fur trade history will find this book interesting and useful.” Winona Wheeler, University of Saskatchewan