Reachable only by boat in spring, summer, and fall, this small area on the shores of Lake Athabasca is the first settlement in the province of Alberta. It was formed in 1788. That means it is nearly 80 years older than Confederation and a full 117 years older than Alberta itself.
But how did the settlement come to be?
In 1778, native guides shared a long-used trade route—Methye Portage—with Peter Pond, founder of the North West Company. The water systems there would lead the settler traders to the rich Athabasca regions. In hunting and trapping, the settlers found amazing success. In 1778, the North West Company set up a post called Fort Chipewyan—it would go on to become one of the most important posts in all of Canada. Fur traders came to call Fort Chip “the emporium of the north,” given its size and scale.
Our community participated in the fur trade and helped develop the settlements that dot the landscape as towns and hamlets. In our oral history, we remember hunting and trapping methods of our ancestors, and of using bitumen and tree bark for waterproofing our skiffs that would sail down the Athabasca.
This land teems with the history and knowledge of our ancestors.
Many of us still hunt and trap on this land. We still travel by skiffs made by our traditional boat builders, too. And, just as we continue to exercise our rights in our traditional territory, we work hard to preserve our traditions, ways of live and land for the next generation.