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