Fort Edmonton Canoe Brigade
Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary was celebrated far and wide across the country. Few celebrations, however, were as true to the history of the river valley and European settlement of Western Canada as the Fort Edmonton Canoe Brigade. The brigade which was part of a national series organized by the Voyager Brigade Society involved the support of many such as event organizer Mark Lund, and organizations like the River Valley Alliance.
The Setting – The North Saskatchewan River
While the brigade highlights the river’s voyageur past, the river and canoes were staples of transportation for indigenous people in the region for 8000-10000 years before European arrival. The Rossdale flats area of central has historically important place for the region’s Cree ancestors. Called Monto (the Cree Word for “Creator’s spirit” or “the great mystery”), this spot became a vital location to the fur trade as the original home of Fort Edmonton. The replica Fort has since been rebuilt in Edmonton’s southwest. (It was more recently enhanced by the Fort Edmonton Footbridge – a project partially funded by the River Valley Alliance).
Honouring these traditions, the Brigade began its journey on June 29th and spanned the entirety of the Capital Region River Valley while passing through Devon, Parkland County, Leduc County, Edmonton, Strathcona County, and Sturgeon County, Fort Saskatchewan and finally landing at Victoria Settlement on July 3rd. The River Valley Alliance’s own executive director Larry Wall was on hand to paddle with the brigade:
After many years of canoeing, it was my first such experience as a “voyageur”. I hadn’t expected it to leave me with such vivid, first-hand images of this central component of Canada’s Heritage. As a Brigade Voyageur we saw the river and the river valley much as a NorthWest Company Voyageur would have seen it in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. As we arrived in the various communities we witnessed a river valley that was and is the mainstream of community life. From announcing our arrivals by musket shot and being acknowledged with a returning volley, to asking permission to land, being piped up to a ceremony of welcome and witnessing life from an historical perspective we enriched our own life experience and that of the greeting delegations.
Canada 150 and Beyond
The Canada Day arrival at Fort Edmonton had an especially large following. Families, cyclists, hikers and walkers all gathered near the Fort Edmonton Footbridge as the Canoe Brigade made its way around the bend from Terwillegar Park. For many people it was the first time that they had seen that many boats at once on the North Saskatchewan. Some wondered when they, too, would get an opportunity to get out on the water like a voyageur themselves…
The River Valley Alliance exists to preserve, protect, and enhance the Capital Region River Valley. We are a non-profit organization that is helping to build vital infrastructure like footbridges, trails, parks, and boat launches across the river valley. If you support our efforts and want to see more stories like these, please donate to the River Valley Alliance. If you have more time than money, consider volunteering with us!