During the Anglo-French struggle for Canada from 1756 to 1763, the fur-trade network from Montreal to the centre of the continent dwindled. By 1763, the Montreal traders had abandoned their posts in the West. The Pontiac uprising effectively blocked any efforts to re-establish trade in 1764.
In 1766, a loose amalgamation of Montreal-based traders took steps to re-establish the fur trade network in the West. Scottish merchants worked with Canadian traders. That year, voyageurs from Montreal reached the Saskatchewan River and established trade relations with the Assiniboine. In 1778, trader Peter Pond reached the fur-rich lands of the Mackenzie River.
In 1788, a large group of Montreal merchants formally established the North West Company. It was composed of a group of Scottish entrepreneurs and Canadians with extensive experience in the Western fur trade. James McGill, John Frobisher, Alexander Henry, and Simon McTavish formed the company with Maurice Blondeau and Nicolas Mantour.
In 1792, Alexander Mackenzie of the North West Company reached the Arctic Ocean by way of the river that bears his name. A year later, on 22 July 1793, he would successfully cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the Pacific Ocean.
Montreal-based voyageurs paddled and portaged their way to the West carrying trade goods. They returned in canoes laden with valuable furs. The North West Company competed fiercely with the Hudson's Bay Company. The fur trade was so lucrative that competition would eventually lead to confrontation and open hostilities in the West.