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You have probably built a fort in your house or backyard when you were a kid. I used to take all the cushions off the couch and make forts in our family room! When the French and British explorers first came to Canada one of the first things they built were forts. These forts were strong buildings that could be defended against an enemy. They were usually built on a hill or close to water so that the people inside could see enemies trying to sneak up on them. Forts were also used as a place to trade things.

The fur trade was both a business and a way of life in Rupert's Land, an area in western Canada that included what would later become the province of Alberta. After 1774 the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) began to set up outposts throughout Rupert's Land at places such as Dunvegan, Athabasca, and Fort Chipewyan to better facilitate trade with the native's in the west. The fur trade was a major money maker and, as it began to expand westward, the Hudson's Bay Company soon faced intense competition from others trying to capitalize on their success. New companies, such as the North West Company and the XY Company (a short-lived splinter of the North West Company), began also to establish fur trade outposts in Rupert's Land, often right next to Hudson's Bay posts. A good example of this are the two fur trade posts located near present day Elk Point which were both constructed in 1792 on either side of the North Saskatchewan River -- Fort George built by the North West Company and Buckingham House built by the Hudson's Bay Company. Competition for trade was fierce between the two companies, and open hostilities (fights) between competing posts was not uncommon. Eventually the Hudson's Bay Company was able to overcome their rival and in 1821 the North West Company was combined into the Hudson's Bay Company.

The location of these posts played a major role in the settlement and development of the province. As more and more settlers moved west, they tended to settle around these posts, constructing schools, churches and local businesses to serve the needs of their families. Each fur trade community has its own unique story and history.

Site Profiles:
  • Dunvegan
  • St. Charles Mission, courtesy of Legacy
  • Father Lacombe Mission
  • Lac La Biche Mission
  • Fort George-Buckingham House
  • Fort Macleod
  • Victoria Settlement
  • Fort Whoop-Up
  • Fort Edmonton

  • Courtesy of Legacy, Alberta's Cultural Heritage Magazine:

    Fort Whoop-Up, viewed from the surrounding hills.

    Fort Whoop-Up, viewed from the surrounding hills.

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    Origin of Fort Macleod

    Naming of Fort Chip