Métis Crossing and the historic Victoria Trail

Editor’s note: Alberta announced that museums and historic sites can reopen as part of Stage 2 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan. However, for some seasonal and smaller sites, given how short the season would be as well as the close quarters at some of these sites, the decision was made for Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site to stay closed for 2021. Go to Victoria Settlement social media for online content, along with details about reopening in 2022. All photos below taken by Bri Vos unless otherwise indicated. Banner image courtesy of the Victoria Home Guard Historical Association.

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Program Coordinator for Victoria Settlement and Fort George and Buckingham House and Krista Leddy, Métis Crossing Experience Development Coordinator

Métis Crossing is a gathering place for all people to learn about Métis culture and people. Sitting along the historic Victoria Trail and the North Saskatchewan River, the stories of the Métis families who thrived here are shared through original river lot homes and buildings, recreations of seasonal harvesting camps, and Métis interpreters inviting visitors to experience elements of culture through arts, skills, cuisine, and stories.

Victoria settlement 1862-1922. Source: Leslie Hurt, Occasional Paper Series No. 7.

Victoria National Historic District is 15 minutes south of Smoky Lake (or 1.5 hours northeast of Edmonton) along the North Saskatchewan River. The river lot communities that once stretched along the banks of rivers were common in Alberta. The long narrow land divisions gave the community a different feel than today’s towns and villages, with their overlapping criss cross of streets.

In 2017, Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site (river lot 6) and Métis Crossing (river lots 10-14), piloted Paddle Into the Past, an immersive 3 hour fur-trade program which invites visitors to explore the history and culture of the river lot community and the river which connects them. What better way to experience one of Alberta’s most prominent river lot communities than through a collaboration between two river lot neighbours?

Métis Crossing is a cultural gathering centre run by the Métis Nation of Alberta. Here visitors are invited to experience elements of Métis culture, including finger weaving techniques and stories about buffalo hunts. The many Métis residents of Victoria Settlement river lot community often went south for the buffalo hunt. Buffalo hunts were communal affairs, but also very dangerous.

When was the last time you travelled to the neighbours’ place by paddling down the river? Once you’ve explored Métis Crossing, you’ll get to travel to Victoria Settlement… by canoe!

Once you step off the canoe at Victoria Settlement, you’ll find yourself back in 1896: one of the last years of the fur trade at Fort Victoria. You can explore the fort through ground markings which outline where each building was, and see what the home of the man in charge of the post (“The Clerk’s Quarters”) was like.

It wasn’t all fun and games at Fort Victoria on river lot 6. There were heavy bales of fur trade goods to be hauled to the Fort. You’ll be able to lend a hand (or a forehead) and discover what was in all of those mysterious packages.

At one time, all those dishes and ingredients for medicinal (but very tasty) historical licorice were neatly packed into bales of trade goods which made their way from the east to Fort Victoria. Before you can appreciate the yummy treats, you need to learn to haul the bales of fur trade goods using a tumpline around your forehead.

At the end of your time at Victoria Settlement, you will travel the historic Victoria Trail to return to Métis Crossing. Historic experiences in an historically significant place; what better way to get to know Alberta?

It’s Métis Week!

Commemorated annually in Alberta, Métis Week remembers the efforts and execution of Louis Riel, while also celebrating the historical and contemporary achievements of Métis people working toward rights and recognition of their Nation.

Many of the historical resources, sites and museums across Alberta contain Métis connections and stories. As the owners and managers of many of these sites, the Heritage Division strives to foster partnerships and collaborations with community to ensure that these stories are told accurately and respectfully. We also recognize how significant it is when these heritage places are owned and managed by Indigenous peoples and communities themselves. In honour of Métis Week, we are pleased to share the work of the team at Métis Crossing, who recently celebrated the ground-breaking at their new gathering centre, slated to open next fall.

Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta and began as a major initiative of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Their mission is to be a premiere center for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. The 512-acre site is designed to engage and excite visitors, and is comprised of river lot titles from the original Métis settlers who arrived in the late 1800’s. Their programming encourages active participation of visitors in activities that promote appreciation of Métis people, customs, and celebrations. Read more

VISIT ALBERTA’S HISTORIC SITES AND MUSEUMS: CENTRAL AND NORTHERN ALBERTA

With only a few weeks left in the official visitor season for Alberta’s historic sites, museums, interpretive centres and archives, there is still time for you and your friends and family to hit the highway and discover the fascinating stories from Alberta’s past. But don’t fret if you didn’t make it out this summer — some sites are still open year-round!

VS-2Victoria Settlement

Discover history on the North Saskatchewan River along the Victoria Trail, where Reverend George McDougall founded a Methodist Mission to the Cree in 1862. This is where the Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Victoria in 1864 to trade with the local natives. The Mission and Fort became the nucleus for a Métis community whose river lots extended six miles along the bank of the river. Read more

Gathering at Victoria Settlement

Students at Victoria School, circa 1910: Left to right Frank Whitford, Fred Kuzemsky, unidentified, Wasyl Kotyk, Wayne Kozub or Esepenko, teacher Mr. Rowbottom, Demetrius Ponich, Metro Starchuk, David Thompson, Elena Brucenorsky, Wasyl Brucenorsky [in doorway] and two unidentified at far right (Photo: Rev. D.M. Ponich Collection, Alberta Culture and Tourism).
Students at Victoria School, circa 1910: Left to right Frank Whitford, Fred Kuzemsky, unidentified, Wasyl Kotyk, Wayne Kozub or Esopenko, teacher Mr. Rowbottom, Demetrius Ponich, Metro Starchuk, David Thompson, Elena Brusanowsky, Wasyl Brusanowsky [in doorway] and three unidentified at far right (Photo: Rev. D.M. Ponich Collection, Alberta Culture and Tourism).
Descendants of settlers from Alberta’s historic Victoria Settlement district, and enthusiasts of Alberta’s history generally, are invited to take part in a special gathering and genealogical symposium on the 6th of August 2016 at the Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site.

The agenda for the day’s events are listed below. An area map illustrating the location of Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site can be found below or at the site’s website: http://www.history.alberta.ca/victoria/location/location.aspx

Gathering at Victoria Settlement

Saturday, August 6, 2016

9:00-9:30                     Set up of tents, tables, registration, displays from participants.

9:30-10:00                   Registration – meet and greet.

10:00-10:30                 Ross Stromberg: Program Coordinator, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

10:30-10:45                 Elaine Breadon Peiche: Victoria Home Guard Society.

10:45-11:45                 Peter Melnycky: Historian, researcher, author of 

                                      ‘A Veritable Canaan – Alberta’s Victoria Settlement.’

11:45-12:30                 Linda Collier: President of Historical Society of Alberta; historian and

                                      great-granddaughter of Rev. George McDougall.

12:30-1:00                   Enjoy your picnic lunch and mingle!

1:00-1:45                     Graham Dalziel: Member of Smoky Lake Heritage Board; owner of

                                      historic Riverlot #3 – with a suitcase full of found treasures!

1:45-2:30                     Donna Shanks and John Althouse: Donna is President of Edmonton

                                      branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society. John is a member of E.A.G.S

                                      and Editor of Clandigger.

3:00-3:30                     Steven Bentley: Historian and genealogist with some ‘Whitford’ stories.

3:30-4:00                     Group photo and closing.

4:00                              Carpool to cemetery for those who wish to explore it.

5:00                              Victoria Settlement Historic Site closes.

BONUS: There will be THREE genealogical consultants on site to help with family histories! Steven Bentley plus Bill and Sandy Macdonald.

Please bring your picnic lunch!  AND, your family history, stories, research to share.

Everyone is responsible for their own entrance fee to V.S. ($5.00 per person).

Check the Victoria Settlement website and Plan Your Visit:

http://history.alberta.ca/victoria/planyourvisit/visit.aspx

If you plan to join us, a quick email to victoriasettlementgathering@gmail.com would help us with our planning.

WE CAN’T WAIT TO MEET ALL OF YOU!

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