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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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The Fur Trade Era

Mission Era

Early Settlement


Portrait of Bishop Vital Grandin.The French presence in the West of over 300 years can still be seen through the many geographic terms still in use today, such as prairie, coulée, portage or chute. Other French words used during the fur trade period have also remained; words like travois, régale, rendez-vous and carriole.

In Alberta, place names still reflect this; at times the French term simply supplanted the indigenous name, sometimes not. And so from the fur trade period, we have descriptive names such Fort-des-Prairies, lac du Pont (now Bang’s lake), lac la Biche, Jolie-Butte, lac Clair, Grande Prairie, Rivière-qui-Barre, Vermilion, Cascade rapids, Grande Cache, Cache Lake, la Petite Rivière Jaillante, Grand Rapides, Siffleur river, Chenal des Quatre Fourches, lac Maligne, Roche Miette, and many more.

Lac La Biche in 1915There are also the names of fur trade voyageurs, freighters, and notable Métis: lac Janvier, lac Jacques, lac Poitras, Baptiste lake, lac Cardinal, Garneau, La Boucane Settlement (now Duhamel), rapide du Joli Fou, Vézeau Beach. From a blond voyageur who was called Tête-Jaune, we now have the Yellowhead Pass and Highway. Pouce Coupé is another.

The few places which bear names of saints reflect the effect of missionaries and of the establishment of French-Catholic parishes, of which we have lac Ste.-Anne (and its mission) and Saint-Joachim parish in Edmonton, so named by the early missionaries in honour of the couple who are said to be the maternal grandparents of Jesus. We also have St.-Albert, St.-Paul, St.-Vincent, Ste-Lina, St-Édouard, St.-Isidore, Marie-Reine, which all date from the first half of the twentieth century.

A number of communities were named in homage of missionaries such as Grandin, Lacombe, Leduc, Morin (Morinville), Legal, Bonny (Bonnyville), Thérien, Breynat, Grouard, Joussard, Fahler, Girouxville, Vegreville, some of which who helped to establish the community which bears their name. Other localities bear the name of notable settler, A view of St. Albert, Alberta, 1877, named after Father Albert Lacombe's patron Saint.founder, or explorer; in this category we have Bordenave, Bleriot Ferry, Trochu, Miquelon Lake, Mt. Bourgeau, Quesnell Bridge (in Edmonton), Plamondon, Villeneuve. Some modern names are descriptive or are in homage to the home left behind, and so we have Beaumont, Lille, Gourin.

And so it is that as you read through this site, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the history and the heritage of the French in Alberta, from the earliest times to the present day. Today, French is spoken by over 70,000 Albertans, many of whom are the products of French immersion schools throughout the province.


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