Far Corner Of The Strange Empire Central Alberta On The Eve Of Homestead Settlement

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2012-08-06 01:14Z by Steven

Far Corner Of The Strange Empire Central Alberta On The Eve Of Homestead Settlement

Great Plains Quarterly
Volume 3, Number 2, Spring 1983
pages 92-108

William C. Wonders
University of Alberta

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, what is now central Alberta was a region in transition. For centuries the area had been inhabited by native Indian peoples, but with the advance of homestead settlement, it became a marginal part of what Joseph Howard has called the “strange empire,” a portion of the northern Great Plains that was marked by unrest at the end of one era and the beginning of another. The changes that affected the Red River Valley and later the Saskatchewan Valley had significant local repercussions in this far corner of the “empire,” the valley of the upper Battle River immediately south and east of Edmonton.

The fur trade provided the initial and dominant economic base for the European presence in the Canadian Northwest. It also contributed to the appearance of the mixed-blood people variously known as the métis, half-breeds, or country-born who played such an important role in it. Though they were soon submerged by the flood of incoming settlers, for a few decades in the late nineteenth century the metis made a distinctive but short-lived impact on the northern Great Plains. The focus here is on this transitional period between fur trade and homestead settlement in central Alberta, an area that is also transitional in its geographic character.

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