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What is the history of Edmonton, Alberta?

What is the history of Edmonton, Alberta
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How did the city of Edmonton come to be? Well, you’re in luck if you want to know that, as today’s article will walk you through our city’s vivid history.

How did the city of Edmonton begin?

The city of Edmonton started as a trading post. It was known as Fort Edmonton in the late 1800s and attracted many European traders and settlers because it was an ideal spot for collecting and trading fur. 

You see, Edmonton’s culture and history are closely intertwined with its geographic location. The small community where produce and fur are traded expanded and developed into a major trading post for the influential Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).

How did Edmonton get its name?

How did Edmonton get its name
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Edmonton took its name from Fort Edmonton, which was named after the Edmonton district in Enfield, England. This was the hometown of Sir James Winter Lake, one of the governors who attended the fort’s establishment. 

Edmonton at that time was a place largely for traders, although more and more people settled in it over the years. It was not until 1904 that it was legally incorporated as a city, and in 1905, was also established as the capital city by the Federal Liberal Government.

Who were the first settlers in Edmonton?

Based on archeological evidence, the first settlers in Edmonton were aboriginal hunting people or tribes from First Nations. 

First Nations are people who identify as Indigenous People. However, this doesn’t include Inuit and Métis. 

Since the First Nations consisted mostly of aboriginal hunting tribes, they migrated across the region regularly. They moved from place to place along with the herds on which they subsisted.

According to Britannica, archaeological evidence indicates that these people had been inhabiting the area for around 3,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century to early 19th century. 

What percentage of Edmonton is native?

According to Alberta’s Edmonton Aboriginal Population Report in 2021, 5.84% of the general population of Edmonton are natives or Indigenous Peoples. 

This means that around 87,600 of the general population in the Edmonton metropolitan area identify as aboriginal or Indigenous Peoples. 

This number continues to grow through the years. Currently, Edmonton is one of the cities in Canada with the biggest indigenous population, and they may identify as First Nations, Métis, Inuk, or registered or Treaty Indians. 

What Indigenous Peoples lived in Edmonton? 

What Indigenous Peoples lived in Edmonton
Image source: Wikimedia Commons 

Edmonton, Alberta, has long been home to many indigenous tribes and nations, including the Cree, Sioux, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, and Métis. 

Apart from that, the city is nestled within the Treaty 6 Territory and Métis Homelands and Métis Nation of Alberta Region 4. 

That’s why it’s recognized as a traditional territory of First Nations such as Nehiyaw (Cree), Nakota Sioux (Stoney), Denesculliné (Dene), Niisitapi (Blackfoot), and Anishinaabe (Saulteaux). 

What is the largest ethnic group in Edmonton? 

The largest ethnic cluster in Edmonton is Canadian based on the data provided by Canada Population’s 2016 census. 

Here are the most prominent ethnic groups in Edmonton. 

Ethnic OriginPopulationPercentage
1. Canadian159,07017.41%
2. English153,74016.83%
3. Scottish126,10013.80%
4. German124,17013.59%
5. Irish113,79512.46%
6. Ukrainian98,82010.82%
7. French85,5659.37%
8. Chinese67,9707.44%
9. East Indian67,9357.44%
10. Filipino57,0506.24%

How did the fur trade impact Edmonton’s history? 

The fur trade and its attraction of European exploration and colonization played a formative role in the establishment and development of Edmonton. 

In the late 1800s, the fur trade was what brought European traders and settlers to the area. They were the first white people to come to Edmonton and Alberta. 

Their interest in fur-rich areas was spurred by the high demand for felt hats in Europe. Traders usually came by canoes or boats to buy beaver pelts from the natives. 

The competition among different indigenous tribes had been high, and there were a few conflicts in territories and posts. Nonetheless, the fur trade significantly fostered peaceful relations between aboriginal tribes and European colonists. 

Fort Edmonton thus became one of the most significant and important fur-trading posts in Alberta. Eventually, the area surrounding it also attracted European settlers and the rest is history. 

How did the establishment of the railway system affect Edmonton’s history?

How did the establishment of the railway system affect Edmonton's history
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons 

The Edmonton region is quite isolated, so the first railway line established in 1891 is considered the catalyst in the creation of other transportation routes that led to the city’s further growth. 

The first railway line in Edmonton was incorporated in what was then known as Northwest Territories (now Alberta). This was the first transportation connection between Calgary and Strathcona. 

The development of transit lines also led to the discovery of abundant oil and gas sources throughout Alberta. Besides that, after roads and airports were built, and the neighborhoods in Edmonton become better-connected. 

All of this laid the foundation for progress, building the city we see around us today!