Fort Chipewyan and the Shaping of Canadian History, 1788-1920s
"We like to be free in this country"
The story of the expansion of European civilization into the wilderness continues to shape perceptions of how Aboriginal people became part of nations such as Canada. This groundbreaking study subverts this narrative of progress and modernity by examining Canadian nation building from the perspective of a northern community and its residents.
Drawing on decades of research and fieldwork, Patricia McCormack argues that Fort Chipewyan – established in 1788 and situated in present-day Alberta – was never an isolated Aboriginal community but a plural society that stood at the crossroads of global, national, and indigenous cultures and economies. The steps that led Aboriginal people to sign Treaty No. 8 and accept scrip in 1899 and their struggle to maintain autonomy in the decades that followed reveal that Aboriginal peoples and others can – and have – become modern without relinquishing cherished beliefs and practices.
This meticulously researched study of the most famous and best studied of the Treaty No. 8 communities not only provides a window into the history of Canada and Alberta – it challenges the nature of history writing in Canada itself. Anyone interested in the history of First Nations, northern communities, or the way historians and local communities approach and understand the past should read this book.
Anyone interested in the history of First Nations, northern communities, or the way historians and local communities approach and understand the past should read this book.
Patricia McCormack’s study of Fort Chipewyan is unique in its scope and its coverage of this northern Alberta community’s history. Building on several decades of field and archival research, McCormack draws widely from documentary and oral sources to tell the story of this special place – one that she has known for a long time. Tracing its origins, its internal diversity, and the complex dynamics of its relations with newcomers from fur traders to government agents and countless others, she highlights the people’s own stories and perspectives in the face of Canadian expansionary pressures.
Founded in 1788, Fort Chipewyan has undergone many changes to its social, cultural, economic, and political landscape over the more than two centuries covered in this book. Archival documents, photographs, and maps enhance Patricia McCormack’s comprehensive analysis of the ‘contact zone’ in which First Nations people and settler society met, clashed, and grappled with each other in Alberta’s oldest European settlement.
1 Writing Fort Chipewyan History
2 Building a Plural Society at Fort Chipewyan: A Cultural Rababou
3 The Fur Trade Mode of Production
4 The Creation of Canada: A New Plan for the Northwest
5 Local Impacts: State Expansion, the Athabasca District, and Fort Chipewyan
6 Christian Missions
7 The Ways of Life at Fort Chipewyan: Cultural Baselines at the Time of Treaty
8 Treaty No. 8 and Métis Scrip: Canada Bargains for the North
9 The Government Foot in the Door
10 Fort Chipewyan and the New Regime
Epilogue: Facing the Future
Dispersed but Not Destroyed
A History of the Seventeenth-Century Wendat People
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