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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 24: Naming the Peace River

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

One of the longest rivers in Canada is the Peace River. At 1923 km, it cuts across the entire width of the northern part of Alberta, and joins with the Slave River near Lake Athabasca.

As historian Merrily Aubrey explains, it's a point near this confluence that distinguishes the history of the river.

Well, according to Alexander Mackenzie, who was up there 1792-93, it came from the time when the Cree and the Beaver were at war. And after this war they made peace at Peace Point.

Before the Europeans arrived, the country was already occupied by the Beaver and Slavey people, and it was the Cree, or Kristeneaux, who invaded their land.

War broke out as the Kristeneaux attempted to drive the Beaver and Slavey people out of the region.

But eventually, the Kristeneaux made peace at a place on the river that became known among the Aboriginals as Peace Point.

Then came the fur trade.

Well, its obviously because of its position, it was very important to the fur trade because it was along a lot of the main water routes. That was its main function. That's why it was so attractive to the fur traders.

So, you have Peter Pond, who was up there in the 1780s, and it was indeed he who first recorded the name River of Peace.

The river itself held great importance for all the northern people who used it. This included the Beaver, Slavey, Dogrib, Chipewyan, Cree and Sakanee people.

And as historian Merrily Aubrey points out, this is indicated by the various names given the river.

The Beaver Aboriginal people themselves refer to it as Ungeega, which means Large River, and that indeed is what it is.

Another source has stated it was the translation of a Slavey word, Chin-chago, which means Beautiful River, and that is also very descriptive of it.

The Hudson's Bay post journal of 1822 refers to the river as Rivière de Broche, and broche was the French word for Northern Pike, and indicates the immediate interest in the feature as a source of food for the fur trade.

Today the mighty Peace River still flows through a land of immense beauty and economic importance.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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