Although there were probably several Cardinals who were
voyageurs, many of those who bear the name are descended from
Joseph Cardinal who settled on the shores of Lac La Biche around
Born in Montréal in 1756, Cardinal was employed by the North
West Company (NWC). He travelled with Alexander Mackenzie in
1787, seeking a river which led to the Pacific Ocean and
descended the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean instead.
In September of 1799, Cardinal accompanied David Thompson to
Lac La Biche and went on to Fort George on the North
Saskatchewan River later in the month. In 1802, Cardinal worked
in the Peace River region, and in 1804, as an interpreter at
Fort-des-Prairies, today’s Edmonton. Cardinal was hired by
George Simpson to cut a horse track from Lac La Biche to Fort
Assiniboine in 1824. From his home in Lac La Biche, he must have
travelled far north for furs. In 1828, he accompanied some
Chipewyan hunters to Fort Edmonton, where the like had never
been seen before, and everyone came out so see the men in their
traditional garb with pointed hoods.
Even in his old age, Cardinal was a very active and fit man.
He was 88 when he guided l’abbé Thibault to Lac La Biche from
Cold Lake, and in 1852, he personally assisted Father Albert
Lacombe to choose the site for Notre-Dame-des-Victoires mission
on the shores of Lac La Biche, not far from his home and where
the old mission still stands today.
In 1810, Alexander Henry noted in his journal that Cardinal
had two dependant women and four children with him along the
North Saskatchewan River. He lived to be 100, and during his
long life, he was known to have three wives, one of whom was
Cree, known simply as Rose Crise. In 1844, he was officially wed
to Louise Frobisher by the itinerant priest, J. B. Thibault, but
had probably been with her for many years; she seems to have
died shortly after, as four years later he married Isabelle
Capot Vert. In 1880, it was said he had 300 descendants living
near Lac La Biche.
After Albert Lacombe’s visit in 1852, one of Cardinal’s sons,
Alexis, agreed to work for the missionary as guide and
outfitter, and accompanied him on his travels for many years. In
Alberta, there is a Lake Cardinal and a Cardinal Creek which may
have been named after some of his descendants. Jacques Lake in
Jasper National Park is named after Jacques Cardinal, a fur
trader of the region, also known as Jacquot, Jaco, Jacco or
Jacko). He is buried on the banks of the Cardinal River, and a
mountain, a pass and some hills also bear his name. Jacques may
have been a son of Joseph.