In 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
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
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.
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
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