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

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Lesser Slave Lake

Lesser Slave Lake, historicalNow a community northwest of Edmonton, the area surrounding Lesser Slave Lake was developed throughout the fur trade. While Slave Lake exists as a town today, it is a relatively recent development; during fur trade days, there was not a particular site that served as a base for the community. There is however, the lake, named Lesser Slave Lake to differentiate it from Great Slave Lake in the North West Territories. The history of the fur trade and the Métis people around the lake owe a lot to the bush country, the taiga, in which the lake is set.

The earliest history of the fur trade in the Lesser Slave Lake district combines excessive fur trade company rivalry (between the North West Company, XY Company, and Hudson’s Bay Company); frequent movements of the posts themselves, sometimes because of complete changes to the routes into the area; and some of the earliest mentions of "freemen" in Alberta history.

Both the frequent relocations of the posts and the changes of fur trade routes reflect the difficulties of life in the boreal forest. Alexander McKenzie was the first white man known to gain knowledge of the lake in 1792-93, while he wintered at the Fort at the Forks of Peace River. McKenzie entered the area from the east, via Ile a la Crosse. David Thompson, the first white man to reach the lake, made his journey from Edmonton, via the Pembina and Athabasca rivers, in the spring of 1799. Their two journeys reflect both the possibilities and difficulties of travel in a region with many rivers, lakes and streams. Though there were many ways to gain access to the area, none of them were easy.

The First Nations in the area, the Beaver and the Cree, followed a lifestyle that included cooperation with the fur trade. It has been suggested that the Cree were only in the area at the prompting of the fur traders of Fort George (The Cree who were trading in Lesser Slave Lake had come in from Green Lake area in Saskatchewan) and while the area was rich in furs, it had a lower carrying capacity, and resources for sustaining human life became scarce. Both the unsettled life of the First Nations, roving over a large area around the lake, and the movements of the fur trade posts reflect the challenges of the time. 

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Liens Rapides

Community and Society

The Municipal District of Lesser Slave Lake

Fur Trade History and Competition

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