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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Francophone Edukit

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The Cardinal family









Although there were probably several Cardinals who were voyageurs, many of those who bear the name are descended from Joseph Cardinal who settled on the shores of Lac La Biche around 1800.1 Born in Montréal in 1756, Cardinal was employed by the North West Company (NWC). He travelled with Alexander Mackenzie in 1787, seeking a river which led to the Pacific Ocean and descended the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean instead.

In September of 1799, Cardinal accompanied David Thompson to Lac La Biche and went on to Fort George on the North Saskatchewan River later in the month. In 1802, Cardinal worked in the Peace River region, and in 1804, as an interpreter at Fort-des-Prairies, today’s Edmonton. Cardinal was hired by George Simpson to cut a horse track from Lac La Biche to Fort Assiniboine in 1824. From his home in Lac La Biche, he must have travelled far north for furs. In 1828, he accompanied some Chipewyan hunters to Fort Edmonton, where the like had never been seen before, and everyone came out so see the men in their traditional garb with pointed hoods.

Even in his old age, Cardinal was a very active and fit man. He was 88 when he guided l’abbé Thibault to Lac La Biche from Cold Lake, and in 1852, he personally assisted Father Albert Lacombe to choose the site for Notre-Dame-des-Victoires mission on the shores of Lac La Biche, not far from his home and where the old mission still stands today.

In 1810, Alexander Henry noted in his journal that Cardinal had two dependant women and four children with him along the North Saskatchewan River. He lived to be 100, and during his long life, he was known to have three wives, one of whom was Cree, known simply as Rose Crise. In 1844, he was officially wed to Louise Frobisher by the itinerant priest, J. B. Thibault, but had probably been with her for many years; she seems to have died shortly after, as four years later he married Isabelle Capot Vert. In 1880, it was said he had 300 descendants living near Lac La Biche.

After Albert Lacombe’s visit in 1852, one of Cardinal’s sons, Alexis, agreed to work for the missionary as guide and outfitter, and accompanied him on his travels for many years. In Alberta, there is a Lake Cardinal and a Cardinal Creek which may have been named after some of his descendants. Jacques Lake in Jasper National Park is named after Jacques Cardinal, a fur trader of the region, also known as Jacquot, Jaco, Jacco or Jacko). He is buried on the banks of the Cardinal River, and a mountain, a pass and some hills also bear his name. Jacques may have been a son of Joseph.


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