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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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La Vérendrye and Western Exploration
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New France, Fur
Trade and Exploration

The French Fur Trade

The Hudson's Bay Company

Voyageurs

La Vérendrye and Western Exploration

The Métis

Events Abroad

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The La Vérendrye Brothers facing the Western American Rockies.Although the Canadian fur traders were well established in the Great Lakes region, the first explorer to set out to find the "Western Sea" was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye (1685-1749), usually known as Pierre de La Vérendrye. Born in Trois-Rivières, he invested later in life in his brother René-Jacques’ fur trade enterprise in the Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay, Ontario) region. In 1725, La Vérendrye began his hands-on involvement in the fur trade when he joined his brother as second-in-command of his fur trade post. It was at the post where he became interested in finding the "Western Sea," known to the French as "la mer de l’Ouest." Map makers and explorers had speculated that there was a sea not far west of the Great Lakes, which would lead to the Pacific Ocean. The quest for this sea consumed him for the rest of his days, and many expeditions were undertaken to seek it out. When he died unexpectedly, La Vérendrye was in the midst of planning an expedition up the Saskatchewan River where, after many false leads, he was convinced he would finally reach the height of land beyond which lay the western sea.

La Vérendrye au lac des Bois. Painting by Arthur H. Hider.In contrast to the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), by 1725, La Vérendrye’s efforts both in the fur trade and exploration established the French on a firm footing west of the Great Lakes.

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