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Volunteerism in Pre-1905 Alberta

Native People




The volunteer tradition in Alberta has very deep roots. So deep, in fact, that the origins of volunteerism in Alberta actually precede Alberta itself.

Hudson’s Bay Company fort interiorThe spirit of volunteerism was born out of the tradition of community. Prior to European settlement, the Aboriginal peoples of the northwest knew that the survival of their tribes depended on the willingness of community members to help one another. This willingness to share time, knowledge and resources was extended to the European settlers who arrived in the area to set up fur trade posts and missions. Without such aid, the Europeans could not have survived the extreme environment of their new home.

The fur traders and missionaries were not without their own charitable traditions. They also held the belief that support of one’s neighbours, especially those less fortunate than they, was a moral virtue to be lived out. When other European settlers arrived to homestead in the northwest, these virtues were played out in various ways: from helping a new settler build a house, to donating food or supplies to those settlers who had fallen on hard times.

Settlement was changing the northwest in irrevocable ways, but what remained intact in both the Aboriginal and European societies was a spirit of charity and commitment to the community.


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Volunteerism in Alberta: 100 years of Celebrating Community

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