Identity can be understood as the stories we tell about who we are as people and communities. This also includes stories that others tell us about ourselves, passed down through generations. An individual's sense of identity is has both private and public aspects to it. We are shaped by personal, family and community history, not directly connected to public institutions. We also have a public identity, how one sees himself or herself in terms of the larger society, as an Albertan and a Canadian, for example.
As mentioned, many Albertans think of Alberta's story as one of self-reliant, determined individuals building a province and making a living. There is truth in this. But there are also commonly held notions about Alberta's past that are less accurate. This is not unique to Alberta. One commentator notes that "where there is a poorly developed sense of the past, people will not only create a future, but also a new past."
One of these commonly held notions is the importance of the individual over the group. This is a common theme in the history of the western United States and has influenced the outlook of Albertans. In this view, the character and perseverance of the individual is the key to success and to overall social progress. Yet historians observe that the presence of cultural societies and churches, extended families and bloc settlements have been critical in establishing Alberta's communities and institutions.
Another commonly held notion is that hardy pioneers struggled to overcome a harsh natural environment. Cold winters, hot summers, drought and floods were the most constant and formidable adversaries. Yet well-researched histories show struggles with railways, banks, grain brokers and commercial monopolies as being of equal concern in shaping the Alberta pioneer experience.
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.