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Across the Canadian Prairies
The Edmonton District

The country in the neighbourhood of Edmonton, within a radius of 30 or 40 miles from the town, has become fairly well settled within the last three or four years, the result, of course, of the extension of railway facilities. On the day after our arrival at Edmonton we drove out about 25 miles, through St. Albert, going by the Western road and returning by the Eastern road, which gave us an opportunity of travelling over an extensive area of the prairie. St. Albert is about 10 miles from Edmonton, and quite a flourishing little settlement exists there, having grown up about the conventual establishment and schools which are attached to the Palace of the local Roman Catholic prelate, Bishop Grandin, a man known and respected throughout the North-West Territories. It was surprising to us to see how the country had settled up in such a comparatively short time, and not easy to believe that the comfortable-looking farms, excellent fences, and comparatively well-used trails, had all sprung into existence since 1890. In fact, the district looks much older than many parts of Manitoba, and even of Ontario, that have long had the benefit of railway communication.

The drive from Edmonton through St. Albert took us in a north-westerly direction, but on the following day we wont almost due north, our particular object being to visit the Indian Reserve at Stoney Plain—a drive out and home of about 30 miles. On this road there is not so much settlement, owing partly to a large stretch of the country being reserved for the Indians. For a few miles, however, out of Edmonton, and until we reached the boundary of the Reserve, settlers’ houses were frequently visible, patches of ploughed land were crossed, and cattle and horses and other evidences of the settler were seen. On our arrival at the Reserve we were hospitably welcomed by the resident Agent, Mr. De Cazes. The buildings of the Agency occupy a picturesque position on rather high ground, by the side of a pretty lake, on which large numbers of wild fowl were disporting themselves when we arrived. Although our visit was rather late in the season, and the garden was not at its best, we saw enough to convince the most sceptical of the fertility of the soil and the salubrity of the climate. There were still some turnips and cabbages in the ground, and on measuring three of tho former they wore found to be 24 inches, 32 inches, and 34 inches respectively; while a cabbage, which would not be cut for some weeks, had a circumference at that time of 45 inches—that is, round the heart alone, leaving the outside out of consiiteration. Potatoes and onions and other roots and vegetables were large in proportion and prolific in yield, and it is interesting to know that all the work in the garden is done by the Indians. The red men in this Agency, known as the Lapotac Reserve, seem to be in a very flourishing condition: most of them live in comfortable and substantial houses, which they have been stimulated to erect by the tact and judgment of the Agent. They also do some cultivation, own quite a number of cattle, horses and implements, and are practically self supporting. They are also making considerable progress from an industrial point of view, and were beginning to make cloth and other woollen goods—a fact very creditable to Mr. De Cazes. At certain times of the year many of the band go away hunting in the Northern country, and often manage to make a good deal of money by the furs they sell. Altogether, the Indians seem to be very happy and contented, and we saw several of them driving home from church soon after our arrival, from which it will be gathered that our visit was made on a Sunday. We drove back to Edmonton in the cool of the evening, and are not likely soon to forget the glorious colouring that was everywhere to be seen. The foliage was beginning to change, and showed a variety of colour; part of the sky was of various hues, from blue to violet; while the setting sun threw a golden haze over everything. The rabbits were out feeding in thousands; and we also saw two or three wolves, which, however, were of the prairie type—the coyote—and ran away at our approach.
On the following day we visited Fort Saskatchewan, the headquarters of the North-West Mounted Police in the district. It is situated about 12 miles from Edmonton, on the banks of the river, and, in order to see as much of the country as possible, on our outward journey we skirted the north bank, crossing at the fort, returning by the south bank through what is known as the Clover Bar district. Here again we found plenty of evidences of settlement and progress, which confirmed what we had seen previously in other parts of the district— that is, the suitability of the Edmonton country for farming operations of all kinds. We were not surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm displayed everywhere by the farmers, and were also able to understand how it was that the British tenant-farmer delegates who visited the country in 1893 became so enamoured of this part of Alberta.

While at Edmonton, we had the pleasure of a conversation with Father Lacombe, one of the noble band of clergymen which have passed the best parts of their lives in the North-West in endeavouring to civilise the Indians and to bring the blessings of religion into their lives. Father Lacombe has been in the country for the last thirty or forty years, long before it was transferred to the Dominion—in fact, when he first went there, it was the happy hunting ground of the Indian, and both small and large game were plentiful, the buffaloes roaming over the prairies at that time in millions. In the early days he had many adventures among the Indians, being present at several battles between the different tribes; and, if- he would, he could tell many an exciting story of hairbreadth escapes in his endeavours to promote peace among them. It is to be hoped that some day Father Lacombe will publish his reminiscences. It would surely be a most exciting and interesting book, for he probably knows more of the Red Man than anyone living, His influence with the Indians has long been great, and there can be no doubt that the Government owe much gratitude to the reverend father, for it was largely owing to his exertions that the powerful tribes of the Bloods and the Blackfeet kept aloof from the Riel troubles of 1885.

Our return journey by train to Calgary was comparatively uneventful, but we had the opportunity of conversations with many American farmers and others who had been visiting the Edmonton country, with the view of making it their home later on. One and all, they seemed to be pleased with what they had seen, and no doubt their satisfactory reports will lead to considerable accession of population in the coming spring.

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