Searching for Remote Trading Posts that are still Active.
July 14, 2014 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any remote, off the grid (USA or Canada) trading post(s) that are still operational?
posted by mm-ut to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What do you define as trading post? In Ontario at least, there is still an underground economy of trappers/hunters that trade game for services/goods. I know of two public libraries that accept game in lieu of fines, for example. Also, there are many remote communities in northern ontario that are "off-grid" in the sense that they produce their own electricity via diesel fuel. Their economies tend to be more barter based as well.
posted by saucysault at 4:44 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Supai Arizona.

Only accessible via an 8 mile hike through the grand canyon or helicopter.
posted by empath at 5:11 PM on July 14, 2014

Re: Saucy - A remote" hub / camp where people can still barter and trade for services/ goods in lieu of cash. A place that supports off-grid individuals and or remote small communities.
posted by mm-ut at 5:39 PM on July 14, 2014

I guess I don't quite get what you are looking for because that is pretty common in ontario outside of the major cities. Even a second tier city like Guelph has a pretty healthy barter community. And off-grid isn't that unusual because the size of Ontario and the cost of hydro hookups in rural areas is prohibitive (not to mention when hydro goes down it usually takes a while to fix, so there is more of a frontier mentality). I think there were about 175 communities that make their own hydro (which doesn't serve everyone in the community) Some of the (non-First Nation) people choosing to live in remote areas are neo-hippies or people into intentional communities but a lot are more "revolutionary" types or draft dodgers or flat out differently mentally-abled that live in the woods and just come into town to barter for what they need. Also, there is a sizeable Amish population in Ontario (and they are off-grid) that within the community tend to barter. The Hutterites are another group but I don't have personal experience with them. Even with New Canadians (my experience is mostly with the suburban Punjabi and Carribean communities) there is significant non-monetary trading of goods and services. There are secondary schools that give credits for teaching trapping/hunting so the kids get an otherwise unobtainable diploma and the ability to get their own food legally (getting the hunting/trapping licence is part of the diploma). Of course, hunting and trapping is a big part of many of the remote First Nation reserves as well, but their socio-economies are pretty complex and you would be better served by talking to someone that knows what they are talking about. Also, this is just Ontario I am familiar with, BC also has a tonne of remote communities, as do the Territories.

Re the game, it was distributed back to the community to needy families. I am not aware of staffers that brought any home (lol at circulation assistant or staff break room, these are Public Libraries serving needy communities in old buildings that are just a few hundred square feet in size and one very part-time staffer). Just like the fines are collected for the common good, the food goes back into the community. I think larger public library systems donate food collected for fine amnesties to food banks, but in the smaller communities of just a couple hundred people there just isn't the infrastructure (or enough possible donors) to support a food bank so it is more informal. Everyone knows everyone else's business anyway and who is hurting for food that month.
posted by saucysault at 6:23 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I seem to have gotten focused on game but I am also aware of garden bounty and firewood being bartered for fines. Many jobs in these communities are seasonal, part-time, some small time selling corn (or pot) to cottagers, with the odd government job thrown in, so bartering is normal. Plus they can be quite insular with United Empire Loyalist descendants so the "community" has strong family ties within it.

I traded babysitting back and forth with my sister all the time; that is what happens in these communities but in a larger scale (like sometimes Kate babysits Kathy's child and the father of the child, Doug, goes 'round and helps fix Kate's father's roof). So kinda bartering, kinda an informal sharing economy.
posted by saucysault at 6:36 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't have to get very far off the major highways here to find little pockets of hermit-types who don't want anything to do with paper money or bank accounts or power bills etc. They just "horse-trade" for everything. It's also common in First Nations communities, especially in more remote areas, but it's not really something everyone would know about.
PM me if you're interested specifically in northern Saskatchewan. I have a friend who is up there all the time and might know a specific community with a formal remote trading post, but it's mostly informal sharing networks.
posted by bluebelle at 6:50 PM on July 14, 2014

I thought of Supai too, but other than not having a road and being remote, I don't think it fits. It has a restaurant that takes credit cards; it has regular helicopter service. There might be some bartering, but as a typical tourist, I didn't see any.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:40 AM on July 15, 2014

I've spent time in a smaller island community which had various payment-in-kind networks for goods and services, but all done on a distributed everybody-knows-everybody basis with a fuzzy mental ledger of who's owed a favour and who owes one. Such-and-such might fix your car in exchange for some firewood, but you'll have to pay for the parts to be bought and fetched from the mainland.

So I think the premise here is slightly iffy here: historical "trading posts" weren't simply self-contained outposts but would be supplied from outside and provide goods to those suppliers. Nowadays, the absence of certain commercial norms becomes a matter of active refusal (religious, cultural, political) rather than community convenience or geographical necessity.
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on July 15, 2014

Saucysault and bluebelle - Sent you both PM's. Thanks for the feedback so far.

It's a tricky question because trading posts are mostly a thing of the past ( except for tourist traps). My hope is to find something close to authentic, i.e a camp / hub / post that still captures a sense of the past. Ideally servicing those walking out of the woods, or communities far off the radar.
posted by mm-ut at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2014

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