Ask Tom – “Why Edmonton”?

Ask Tom, Uncategorized

We had a recent question on twitter asking what made Edmonton such a great spot to build the Hudson’s Bay Fort here.

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We went to Public Programs Coordinator Tom Long (and our own personal Fort Edmonton Wikipedia) to find out more.

“This is a fantastic question. It’s one of the reasons our theme for 1846 is ‘Why are we/you here?”, because we want to juxtapose the presence of Company men and trading posts in the area with modern reasons for living in Edmonton.

The better question is, why *not* have a post at Edmonton. Edmonton is perfectly located to take advantage of the prairie to the south (where bison abound), and the parkland to the north (full of beaver), all while sitting atop a navigable river that leads, eventually to Hudson Bay. In addition, the Edmonton region was considered at the time the borderlands between the Cree nation and the Blackfoot Confederacy, so Edmonton could trade with both. The Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee) and Nakoda (Assiniboine) nations were also nearby. Finally, it was fairly easy to get from Edmonton to Athabaska Landing overland. From there, you had river access to the Jasper Region and all of northern Alberta and further into what is now the Territories. Edmonton was the transportation link for all these locations to the Hudson Bay, via the North Saskatchewan. So, in a way, Edmonton was the ‘gateway to the North’ even during the Fur Trade period.
Or to put it very succinctly, the Edmonton region has access to parkland and prairie, Cree and Blackfoot, and links most of the northwest part of the continent to the Hudson Bay itself.
It should be noted, however, that ‘Edmonton House’ was not always located within the boundaries of modern Edmonton. The first post called Edmonton was actually where Fort Saskatchewan is today. The third was further east of this. There were five locations in total.
To go on just a little more, the locations in Edmonton were all near the Rossdale flats, which is where the easiest ford of the North Saskatchewan River was, right between Walterdale and Rossdale. Nitsitapii bands (Blackfoot) would cross the river here or be ferried in boats from the south.
Oh how I could go on!”
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