Historic Photographs of Fort Chipewyan

The North West Trading Company established a trading post on the southwest corner of Lake Athabasca in 1788. This post, named Fort Chipewyan after the Chipewyan people who were first living there, is the oldest European settlement in all of Alberta. Its isolated location at the hub of the McKenzie River drainage system made it an ideal port for northern exploration as the fur trade expanded. After years of grappling, The Hudson’s Bay Company took control of Fort Chipewyan in 1821. This trading post’s stature within the fur trade began to decline with the introduction of steamboats in the 1880s.

Fort Chipewyan
18-? – Wabiscaw, Fort Chipewyan. Unidentified people standing on the porch of a three story building.

This remote community is only accessible by plane or boat in the summer, however, there is a winter road available during the coldest months. There are less than 1,000 residents in Fort Chipewyan many of whom are members of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, or Fort Chipewyan Métis. Fort Chipewyan was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1930 and today is the gateway to Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I hope you enjoy this collection of historical photos from Fort Chipewyan, a vibrant northern community.

Fort Chipewyan
18-? – View from the shore of Lake Athabasca.
Fort Chipewyan
18-? – View of the exterior of the Roman Catholic Mission.
Fort Chipewyan
1908 – Roman Catholic convent and priest’s house.
Fort Chipewyan
1908 – Mounted Police detachment.
Fort Chipewyan
1921 – Exterior of the Detachment building of the Alberta Provincial Police.
Fort Chipewyan
1921 – View of Ft. Chipewyan from across the water with people standing on the shoreline.
Fort Chipewyan
1921 – Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) post. Buildings L-R: Master’s house, meat houses, clerk’s house, and trading store.
Fort Chipewyan
1922 – View of Fort Chipewyan from Lake Athabasca, Alberta. Remark on negative envelope reads: “Hudson’s Bay Company Post at Chipewyan. Lake Athabaska (sic) originally built by the Northwest Company. It is one of the oldest posts in the north.”
Fort Chipewyan
1925 – View of islands taken from the Store.
1929 – Steamboat landing at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca, Alberta.
1929-1930 – New Hudson’s Bay Store.
1930 – Lute Vieweger at HBC old Palisade Gate, still in tack.
1942 – McInnes ammonia refrigerator barge No. 21.
19-? – View of Fort Chipewyan buildings.
19-? – First Nations people drying fish.
n.d. – Hudson’s Bay Company post.
n.d. – Sister A. Brady holding a pet rabbit.
n.d. – Group of boys from mission, outdoors. Everybody wearing winter parkas.

For similar photo collections please see my previous stories including, Vintage Photos of Trading Post from Across Alberta, Vintage Photos of Trapping from Around Alberta, a Curated Collection of Vintage Photographs from Fort CalgaryHistoric Photos from Fort Edmonton, and Historic Photos from Fort MacLeod.

n.d. – View of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

The photos above were collected from Archives Canada and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on their websites. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta and Western Canada. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.


About Tyler Dixon 214 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.