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

Fur Trade

Fort Edmonton is a large compact establishment with good buildings, palisades, and bastions, pleasantly situated in a deep valley. An extensive and profitable trade is carried on with the… tribes of the plains – Blackfeet, Peigans, Assiniboines, and Crees…

Quote- Alexander Ross, fur trader

The Edmonton region that emerged after the glaciers retreated was the ideal locale for a fur trade hub. Situated along the North Saskatchewan River, one of the main waterways of the trade, the area had ready access to the resource riches and transportation routes of the Athabasca and Mackenzie watersheds. The parkland environment not only offered a wealth of building material, it also sheltered an abundance of beaver, the essential commodity of the trade, and bison, the essential fuel of the fur trade brigades. The natural advantages of the Edmonton region were not the only powerful draws for the fur trade. For thousands of years, the area had been a meeting place for First Nations and was the centre of a sophisticated trading network that had existed prior to the arrival of Euro-Canadians.

The first fur trade post in the Edmonton area was established in 1795 near present-day Fort Saskatchewan. Several posts were erected along the North Saskatchewan River in the area over the next decade. Fort Edmonton would become the most significant fur trade post west of Fort Garry (present-day Winnipeg). The penetration of the fur trade into present-day Alberta had profound implications for the economic and social lives of First Nations communities and contributed to shifts in their territorial boundaries. Prior to 1830, the Edmonton region was dominated by the Blackfoot. After 1830, the Cree and Assiniboine had both established themselves in the Fort Edmonton area. By the mid-nineteenth century, Fort Edmonton had become an ethnically diverse commercial centre administered by Euro-Canadians and Métis who traded with the First Nations communities who gathered seasonally at the site.

Last reviewed/revised: March 18, 2016
Paul Kane’s Painting of Fort Edmonton

Paul Kane’s Painting of Fort Edmonton, ca. 1850.
Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A1685

Fort Edmonton Buildings

Fort Edmonton Buildings.
Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B6580

Indian Camp, St. Albert.
Photo: Missionary Oblates, Grandin Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB11021