The French presence in the West of over 300
years can still be seen
through the many geographic terms still in use today, such as
prairie, coulée, portage or chute. Other French words used
during the fur trade period have also remained; words like
travois, régale, rendez-vous and carriole.
In Alberta, place names still reflect this; at times the
French term simply supplanted the indigenous name, sometimes
not. And so from the fur trade period, we have descriptive names
such Fort-des-Prairies, lac du Pont (now Bang’s lake), lac la
Biche, Jolie-Butte, lac Clair, Grande Prairie, Rivière-qui-Barre,
Vermilion, Cascade rapids, Grande Cache, Cache Lake, la Petite
Rivière Jaillante, Grand Rapides, Siffleur river, Chenal des
Quatre Fourches, lac Maligne, Roche Miette, and many more.
are also the names of fur trade voyageurs, freighters, and notable Métis: lac Janvier, lac Jacques, lac Poitras,
Baptiste lake, lac Cardinal, Garneau, La Boucane Settlement (now
Duhamel), rapide du Joli Fou, Vézeau Beach. From a blond
voyageur who was called Tête-Jaune, we now have the Yellowhead
Pass and Highway. Pouce Coupé is another.
The few places which bear names of saints reflect the effect
of missionaries and of the establishment of French-Catholic
parishes, of which we have lac Ste.-Anne (and its mission) and
Saint-Joachim parish in Edmonton, so named by the early
missionaries in honour of the couple who are said to be the
maternal grandparents of Jesus. We also have St.-Albert,
St.-Paul, St.-Vincent, Ste-Lina, St-Édouard, St.-Isidore, Marie-Reine,
which all date from the first half of the twentieth century.
A number of communities were named in homage of missionaries
such as Grandin, Lacombe, Leduc, Morin (Morinville), Legal,
Bonny (Bonnyville), Thérien, Breynat, Grouard, Joussard, Fahler,
Girouxville, Vegreville, some of which who helped to establish
the community which bears their name. Other localities bear the
name of notable settler,
founder, or explorer; in this category
we have Bordenave, Bleriot Ferry, Trochu, Miquelon Lake, Mt.
Bourgeau, Quesnell Bridge (in Edmonton), Plamondon, Villeneuve.
Some modern names are descriptive or are in homage to the home left
behind, and so we have Beaumont, Lille, Gourin.
And so it is that as you read through this site, you will have
the opportunity to learn more about the history and the heritage
of the French in Alberta, from the earliest times to the present
day. Today, French is spoken by over 70,000 Albertans, many of
whom are the products of French immersion schools throughout the