Living History

23 Jan

My brother recently spent a week in Cuba, and took lots of photos. It is a country that lives their history in front of them every day, with ancient forts, beautiful stone buildings from every era of their long history, and even antique cars everywhere you look – being a car guy, the vintage vehicles featured fairly prominently in my brother’s photographs.

The history of Alberta isn’t nearly so obvious. About the oldest building you will find here is just 150 years old. There are no fortresses from ancient wars, or monuments to past kings. Last summer I visited the site of the very first fur traders outpost in the province, built in the 1790s. Where there once stood two solid forts, the Hudson’s Bay Company owned Fort George and the rival North West Company’s Buckingham House, the only proof of their location is the caved in earth that was once the cellar where the most valuable items (money, firearms and, of course, liquor) were kept.  The archaeologists who excavated the site have marked out where the perimeter fences stood, the buildings, the gardens, the stables. The years and the fire that claimed the wooden forts have left behind only a handful of metal odds and ends as evidence of the earliest European settlers of Alberta.

Alberta had a history before they came, of course. A rich culture of indigenous people who lived and thrived here, but their lifestyle worked with the land, and left little mark upon it.

There is evidence of the very earliest (and biggest!) residents of the province; they left behind their bones.

Our history may not be on display as it is in much of the world, but it is rich and interesting and I’m always eager to learn more about it. This year, I want to keep learning about the fur trade by going to Fort Whoop-Up in Lethbridge. I haven’t been to the Tyrrell Museum since I was a little girl, so I think a trip to Drumheller is in order. And I want to make an effort to learn more about the aboriginal history of my province.


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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in history, writing


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