At the Hudson Bay trading store in Fort Chipewyan, Aboriginal hunters bring their fur pelts to trade for European goods: hatchets, knives, cloth, blankets, and beads. Beaver pelts, the main currency, are used to set the standard prices. The store clerk exchanges one gun for fourteen beaver pelts, five pounds of gunpowder for one beaver pelt, and one pound of tobacco for two beaver pelts.
Well over two hundred years ago, Fort Chipewyan became a significant stopping place for those involved in the fur trade and expeditions to Rupert’s Land. Early explorers and representatives of two rival fur companies — the North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies — included Peter Pond, Alexander and Roderick MacKenzie, George Simpson, and others. The area was abundantly rich in fur-bearing wildlife, and its location on Lake Athabasca at the confluence of three rivers made this a logical choice for early fur trade.
The exterior of the museum at Fort Chipewyan is an exact reconstruction of the Hudson’s Bay store of 1870. Here you are taken back in time to the early fur trade and the Aboriginal experience as it responded to European influence. You will be steeped in the spiritual ambience of Native cultures and the fierce rivalries of the fur traders. The collections and stories that you encounter will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the development of this northern-most and oldest settlement in Alberta.
• Complete, accurate scale representation of the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort, circa 1870
• Fur trade and historical artifacts (guns, canoes used for trapping)
• Maori spiritual talking stick
• Turtle shell – story of the turtle shell found in Lake Athabasca
• History of indigenous people of influence (101-year-old midwife who delivered over 400 living babies)
• Local crafts
• Historical buildings (residential schools, churches)
• Library includes family genealogy records; Native culture and history; Catholic and Anglican Church records; local history; and the fur trade
- Tours (during museum hours and by appointment)
- Archaeological records of area (beginning 10,000 years ago)
- Stories of historical characters and local legends
- Wars between the Cree and Dene peoples before the establishment of the Fort
We also offer
- The museum sells beautiful handicrafts by local Artisans. The handicrafts include moccasins, birch bark baskets and moose hair tufting.
- A fully guided tour through the museum, complete with local stories.
- A beautiful walk along the Lake Athabasca shoreline, featuring informative panels on local flora and fauna.
- The museum is involved in local seasonal events such as Remembrance Day ceremonies, Christmas craft sales, and the RCMP safe Halloween.
- Provides a link between visitors and local tour guides.