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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Site Profile: Victoria Settlement (Fort Victoria, Pakan)

the clerk's quarters at Fort Victoria, Pakan

Victoria settlement is one of those places in Alberta where it seems multiple strands of history come together. Archaeological investigations in the area have uncovered a campsite that has been dated back at least 6000 years. The settlement was located at a traditional crossing place on the North Saskatchewan and not surprisingly we know that there was a large population of Cree people living in the area in the 19th century. Just north of the crossing was a large valley known as the Hairy Bag which was a gathering place for the buffalo herds that the Cree hunted.

These same advantages: river crossing, river flats and herds of Buffalo also attracted others to the area as well. In 1862 a Methodist missionary, the Reverend George McDougall, moved a small struggling mission outpost from Smoking, now Smoky, Lake to a new site on the Saskatchewan River. He named his new mission "Victoria" after the queen. His mission soon attracted about 150 Protestant, English-speaking, buffalo hunting settlers - many from Red River. These settlers were of mixed Cree and Scottish or Orkney background, and reflect the diversity of background and culture of people of Metis descent. The community they built was based on a mixture of farming, buffalo hunting and trading. An interesting feature of their settlement was that it was based on river lots - the narrow farms fronting on the river that were found in Red River and which can be traced back to the early settlement of New France.

In 1864 the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) opened a post at Victoria, called Fort Victoria, to tap into the trade of this community.

The Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Victoria was challenged by several independent traders, including McDougall's son, David, and local Metis traders such as Sam Livingstone, Louis Thompson and Edward McGillivary. The historic sites in the Victoria area include the home of the HBC clerk at Fort Victoria, a church, and some houses or cabins and other buildings associated with the first Métis settlers. If you look closely you can also see evidence of the original river lot system of settlement at Victoria and in the nearby Lobstick Settlement as well. Other Alberta communities that grew out of the movement of Métis from Red River and the settlement of Métis families from Alberta include St. Albert, Lac Ste. Anne, Lac la Biche, and even the first community around Fort Edmonton.

artist's conception of the Fort Victoria SettlementView of the clerk's quarters at Fort Victoria SettlementPakan United Church, Fort Victoria Settlementthe ferry landing on the North Saskatchewan River, Fort Victoria

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