Alberta's Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums
Father Lacombe Chapel

The Land and First Peoples

This is described to be a rich and plentiful country, abounding with all kinds of animals, especially Beavers & Otters, which are said to be so numerous that the Women & Children kill them with sticks and hatchets.

Quote Duncan M’Gillivray, fur trader

The modern history of the Edmonton region begins thousands of years ago, when the titanic force of glaciation shaped sediments and landforms, and glacial meltwaters carved rivers and creeks. Around 12,000 years ago, the massive Laurentide ice sheet which covered present-day Alberta began to melt. Left in its wake was Glacial Lake Edmonton, a wide, shallow body of water trapped behind the retreating ice sheet. Over time, channels like the North Saskatchewan and Sturgeon Rivers formed and began to drain the glacial lake. By 8,000 years ago, the Edmonton region had been transformed from a lake bottom to a terrestrial landscape, and the present ecosystems of Alberta were beginning to take shape. Vast prairie stretched out in the south, and the north was dominated by the boreal forest. Between these two ecosystems developed a transitional parkland ecosystem characterized by a diversity of grasses, shrubs, forests, and wetlands. This varied landscape, cut by the deep creek and river valleys formed at the end of glaciation, supported an abundance of wildlife, including beavers which built their dams along the region’s watercourses and bison which sought refuge from winter’s bite in the shelter of the parkland’s forests.

The rich natural resources of the St. Albert area attracted humans to the region shortly after Glacial Lake Edmonton drained, possibly as early as 10-11,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence indicates that the early inhabitants of the St. Albert region used stone weapons and tools and hunted bison and other parkland game.



Last reviewed/revised: March 18, 2016

Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B10096


Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A15788

North Saskatchewan River

North Saskatchewan River, 1905.
Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A14029