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Pehonan (Rossdale Flats)

Strolling through the river valley paths or driving over the 105th Street Bridge in the City of Edmonton will situate you in the Rossdale Flats area. When traveling through the area of the 105th Street and River valley road intersection, you get the sense of why this area was named Rossdale Flats. The plateau area, in addition to an accessible waterway which is referred to today as the North Saskatchewan River, is situated on top a little river bank and is very flat. This area, which extends several kilometers around, was ideal for Aboriginals and early voyageurs. Looking to the south one sees an area that makes the river accessible. Looking north you see a steep climb into a downtown city core. The in-between area is filled with the memories of a bustling community.

Rossdale Flats was a gathering place used for centuries in an area located in the middle of what is now called the City of Edmonton. There was an amazing diversity among the people of this location: Blackfoot, Cree, Sarcee, Métis, French-Canadian, Scottish, and English. Long ago, individuals and families from all these groups resided here, often at the same time. Traditionally, it was given the name Pehonan, which according to the Cree language means Gathering Place.

The hub of activity is noted in Philip Coutu’s Castles to Forts: A True History of Edmonton:

Situated on the old Indian trail called Wolf’s Track, was long an ancient meeting place of Plains people – a place of trade, celebration and ceremony. However, it was at the later fur trade rendezvous that Europeans joined this cultural mix. The arrival of spring brigade with its bounty of European goods was the highlight of the trading season. The riverbanks along the lower Rossdale Flats were lined with people celebrating the return of the voyageurs and an evening dance often followed. Dressed handsomely in their finest clothing, the people of the fort, handsome voyageurs, trading chiefs, warriors as well as Métis freeman and their families attended this much anticipated event.1

Through Archeological finds, this place of gathering has a history that is dated scientifically at over 8,000 years. Aboriginal oral history indicates that this location was used for a variety of purposes that included sacred ceremonies, an ancient migration trail called Wolf Track, Treaty payments and forts.

According to Blackfoot oral history, Wolf Tracks was a part of a larger north-south migration route used by First Nations prior to contact. This trail extended from Canada’s north to as far south as Mexico, traveling though major areas including a place that is now called Calgary and west to Morley and beyond.

Rossdale Flats was the site of early 19th century fur trading posts Fort Augustus and Edmonton House. In 1825 and again in 1830, Rossdale Flats flooded, convincing Chief Factor John Rowand to should move his post to higher ground. The new Fort Edmonton was not completed until 1832. The new location was on what would become the legislature Grounds in Edmonton.

Edmonton Journal, as far back as 1989. As the community banded to together the issue became increasingly contested. Most contested was the City of Edmonton’s use of the land.

Currently, the road directly over top a part of the burial ground has been closed. The City of Edmonton and community stakeholders are gathering to plan a course of action for the commemoration of the burial site.


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