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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Lac Sainte Anne



Lac Sainte Anne








Lac St. AnneIn 1842 Jean Baptiste Thibeault, an Oblate missionary from St. Boniface, Manitoba made his first journey to the upper North Saskatchewan River. He was seeking the settlement established by buffalo hunter Gabriel Dumont (the elder of the Dumonts) around 1830.

By 1850, over 200 people had settled in the region and as Thibeault was sent to minister to them, he built a permanent mission on the shores of Manito-Sakahigan, or Spirit Lake (also known as Devil’s Lake due to its violent wind storms which rise up suddenly).

Lac Ste Anne (after the mother of Mary) was how Thibeault renamed it. The arrival of Reverend Joseph Bourassa in 1844 firmly established the mission as the first of its kind in the region. For several years the Oblates and (for four years) the Grey Nuns served the region’s inhabitants, hoping the area would become an important centre. However, as the land wasn’t well-suited for agriculture, another colony was established at St. Albert where the Grey Nuns had re-established themselves. Nonetheless, the mission continued to be occupied by a priest who served the local clientele.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Lac Sainte Anne.

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In 1889, Father Joseph Lestanc was inspired to organize a pilgrimage to Lac Ste Anne for Aboriginal people. The pilgrimage is still an annual event which takes place during the last week of July, the 26 being the feast day of Saint Anne. The pilgrimage has been recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as being of national historic significance, and continues to attract thousands of pilgrims each year looking for spiritual renewal, many of Aboriginal descent.

Today, the region benefits greatly from the annual pilgrimage and with its rolling parkland and beautiful lakes, the county is a favourite tourist destination in Alberta.


  • Glen, Bill. "Lac St. Anne Made National Historical Site." Edmonton: The Western Catholic Reporter Online, 2004.
  • Legal, Rev. Émile J. Short Sketches of the History of the Catholic Churches and Missions in Central Alberta. Winnipeg: West Canada Publishing Co. Ltd., 1914

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