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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
Jasper House

Jasper House plaquePierre Bostonais’ ("Tete Jaune") arrival in the Rocky Mountains may have been one of the first trips through the area by Iroquois trappers, but it was far from the last. The Iroquois came west in the employ of the North West Company (NWC) and some decided to settle, choosing a life trapping and free trading over that of trip-man or voyageur. The Iroquois settled in the eastern shadow of the Rockies, and many took Beaver, or Sekani, and Snake, or Shuswap, wives while pushing their communities out of the area.

As the European demands for fur increased, the need for a settlement was established by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and NWC. Jasper House was one of the best paying posts in the Saskatchewan district, as nothing but the most valuable furs were brought there.1

There are numerous records of groups travelling the trail to Jasper encountering the Iroquois family groups along the way. At times, a group would engage a man or two as guides, and find their whole family would come along. Both the Earl of Southesk (1859) and members of the Palliser expedition (1857-1860) were guided by members of the Iroquois community. The Earl of Southesk commented upon how strange it was to hear a baby’s cry in the wilderness.

Impetus to establish the park came from growing public awareness of the need to conserve Alberta’s wilderness, balanced against the growth of industry in the area. It should not be surprising that the Alpine Club was one of the groups strongly backing the conservation movement. The park bordered the route of the two projected transcontinental railways along the Athabasca River and Yellowhead Pass.

Athabasca survey partyIn 1910, the Grand Trunk Pacific chose the present townsite of Jasper as its station and divisional point. In the same year, the park superintendent authorized three stores, three blacksmith shops, and one veterinary office at the same location—the employees of both the railway and the park began moving in. By 1914, there were 125 people in town.

Development continued in the area. One of the most famous hotels began when two young members of Banff’s Brewster family, Jack and Fred, helped start a tent camp at Lake Beauvert in 1915. After the First World War, the camp reopened and expanded, adding a large cabin in 1919, to act as kitchen and dining room. The camp was taken over by the Canadian Nation Railway, which opened an expanded Jasper Park Lodge in 1922. They added a large central building and bungalows, eventually having the capacity to house 650 people, a boathouse and a golf course.

The Jasper-Edmonton road opened in 1928. In 1930, Jasper Forest Park was officially established as a Jasper National Park. Today more than 3 million visitors pass through the park gates each year, and more than 1.8 million stop to experience this unique wilderness and World Heritage Site.

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