ALBERTA, the Princess province

Overview and history

Alberta : points of interest
other provinces

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OVERVIEW

ALBERTA is also called the Princess Province, as it was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria. In 1905, Alberta became the sixth province to join the Confederation of Canada. Its capital is Edmonton, and the largest city is Calgary.

The province covers an area of 662,000 km2, and 58% of the area is forested. Alberta has three million inhabitants, with a density of 4.6 per km2, of which 80% live in cities. Half of all inhabitants actually live in Edmonton or Calgary. The Saskatchewan River drains most of the prairies.

By 1800, the fur trade flourished, and many trappers hunted for the beaver, fox, muskrat, otter, squirrel, marten and mink. Almost all of these animals are now protected. The animal kingdom in Alberta is still represented by the deer, bear, wolf, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep, antelope, gopher and red fox. The largest herd of buffalo (about 4,500), which once were so numerous, now lives in the Wood Buffalo National Park, which was founded in 1922.

In the early days, Alberta mainly lived from its natural resources and the fur trade. The main natural resources are petroleum and natural gas, which are the most important across the whole of Canada. There are reservations for the Cree, the Blackfoot (Siksika, Blood and Piegan), the Tsuu T'ina Nation and the Assiniboine. In northern Alberta, moreover, live the Chipewyan, the Beaver and the Slave.

The 290-kilometer-long Banff-Jasper two-lane road (the Icefields Parkway) is one of the world's most scenic highways. In July, the Calgary Stampede is held, which is a rodeo with the spectacular Chuck Wagon Races. In Edmonton, and during the same month, two attractions take place. The Klondike Days are a portrayal of the 1898 gold rush, and the Buffalo Days Powwow is three days of dancing and drumming !

map of Alberta

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HISTORY

*** Read more about Prehistoric American-Indian cultures ***

It is possible that the fur trader Henry Kelsey explored Alberta in 1691. What is certain, is that explorator Anthony Hendaye of the Hudson's Bay Company visited the area in 1755. He met several Indian tribes, such as the Cree, Chipewyan, Blackfoot, Plains Cree and Assiniboine. They were encouraged to trade in furs.

In 1783, independent Montreal Scottish and French fur traders founded the North West Company, and they built trading posts. An intense rivalry developed between the North West Company and the British Hudson's Bay Company, but neither could gain the upper hand. In 1821, the two companies ended their competition with a gigantic merger. For the next 50 years, the Hudson's Bay Company was about the only authority in Canada.

After 1821, the colonists arrived, followed in 1840 by the missionaries. In 1867, Canada became a Dominion of Great Britain, and the English dream of "a British North America" from coast to coast, was becoming a reality. In 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company sold all of its rights to the federal government.

In 1870, Manitoba joined the Dominion of Canada as a province, and it was followed by British Columbia in 1871. However, the territory in between remained practically ungoverned. Such a situation obviously resulted in complete anarchy, but in 1873 the North West Mounted Police was established, which later became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1875, the Northwest Territories Council was established in Battleford, Saskatchewan.

In 1882, the Northwest Territories were administratively divided into the districts of Assiniboia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Athabasca. New colonists flocked to the new territories, and brought with them large herds of cattle. The Indians were conveniently maneuvered into reservations, and they practically lost all of their territories. Major factors for this rapid development certainly were their many tribal wars.

In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the city of Calgary, on its journey to the west coast, and two years later the first Canadian transcontinental railroad became a reality. In 1905, the four districts were reorganized into two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The population increased rapidly, and by 1911 there were already 375,000 Alberta residents. World War I (1914-1918) stopped the immigrant flow, but nevertheless by 1921, the three Prairie Provinces had become one of the largest granaries of the world. The 1930's Depression coincided with a period of drought. Prices of agricultural products dropped to a bottom, which caused a period of poverty.

After World War II (1940-1945), the oil industry developed rapidly when several large oil and gas discoveries were made in Leduc, Redwater and Pembina. Pipelines were built throughout the US and Canada, and related industries developed. Edmonton became an industrial center and a major refiner, and Calgary became a business and financial center.

In the 1970's, more large natural gas discoveries were made. Given the enormous amounts of money that they generated, rapidly severe discussions arose between provincial and federal governments, end-users and producers, about how to divide the spoils of this great bonanza... In 1981, and after a mere 10 years of discussion, finally an agreement came about that satisfied everyone. However, 4 years later the international oil and grain prices collapsed, and the province was immediately plunged into a depression. In 1988, some economic solace was brought by the Olympic Winter Games, that were held in Calgary.

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