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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways

A group of Metis in Fort Dunvegan Historic Dunvegan is nestled in the scenic valley of the Peace River. It is the site of one of Alberta’s earliest fur trade posts and mission centres and is the best-known post on the Peace River.

The first white man to pass the site was Alexander Mackenzie on 11 May 1793. He was accosted by a band of Beaver who wanted to trade. In March 1804, 11 years later, David Thompson, surveying for the NWC, noted a suitable place for a post and camped in the area on his return from the Rocky Mountains. On Thompson’s recommendation, the NWC made definite plans to establish a permanent post in the area and in the spring of 1806, construction began.

During that spring there were some 45 men working at the fort, as well as the officers of the NWC, the hunters for the post and the hangers-on. That summer, those left in at the post had some trouble: a fire burned part of the post, a hunter was lost to bad food, and three of the women were extremely unhappy with their situation.

The hunting was very poor around the fort that summer, and the camp was without food from 5 July until 14 July—survival was achieved only by killing a couple of their dogs. Thankfully, on 14 July, 10 women of the Flux Band came, loaded with meat.

The brigade came in, in mid-October. They were preceded by the wintering Partner, A. N. McLeod and nine men in a light canoe. They had taken six days from Fort Vermilion and 14 days from Fort Chipewyan. The next day, Blondin came in with the brigade of seven canoes, accompanied by Mr. A. McKenzie.

In 1809, Daniel Harmon took over charge of Fort Dunvegan. He was succeeded by John McGillivray. Other NWC traders who were connected with Dunvegan include McDonald McTavish, Joseph McGillivray, John George McTavish, and James Leith; Simon Fraser, John Finlay, and Samuel Black (the bully of Fort Chipewyan), all either outfitted or stopped at Fort Dunvegan during their travels.

During 1815 and 1816, the HBC made two attempts to establish themselves on the Peace River. The company was turned back by the NWC. Wintering Partner, A. N. McLeod, who had been in charge in Fort Chipewyan during Peter Fidler’s terrible four years at Nottingham House, came in as Wintering Partner with the new title of Superintendent, with a huge determination to drive the English [the HBC] out. He was described as a big stout man in a big red jacket and a long sword. A later writer described him as a "fire-eater" when he wrote that "he was going to bring the English in Athabasca into order and would expel the HBC from the Aboriginal territory and would destroy their establishments." He felt that the former wintering partners in the area had been too lenient and said "he would stand at no trifle."

Peace finally came after the union of the two fur trade companies in 1820. The consolidated company never built at Dunvegan but in about 1827, they rebuilt the NWC post. Things were quieter than before, with traffic diverted to new posts at Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, and near the Forks on Peace River.

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Liens Rapides

Life as a Mission

Life as historic site

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