History of Alberta. Centuries before Europeans came to explore and settle what is now Alberta, Indians followed the buffalo herds, which provided them with food, clothing, and shelter. Major tribes were the Blackfeet, Blood, and Cree.

Charles II of England granted the region to the Hudson's Bay Company as part of Rupert's Land in 1670, but the first white man did not arrive until almost a century later. In 1754 Anthony Henday, a representative of the company, came to promote the fur trade among the Plains Indians.

The rival North West Company built the first trading post in the area on Lake Athabasca in 1778. In the years that immediately followed, both companies established forts in Rupert's Land and bitterly competed for the furs of the western plains. Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson explored the area for the North West Company during this period, searching for furs and possible trade routes. In 1821 the Hudson's Bay Company absorbed the North West Company, and for the next 40-odd years it held a monopoly of the fur trade in the British-American northwest.

Important dates in Alberta
Before 1670The Blackfeet (Blackfoot), Cree, and other First Nations lived in what is now Alberta.
1670King Charles II of England granted trading rights in the Alberta region to the Hudson's Bay Company.
1754-1755Anthony Henday of the Hudson's Bay Company explored the Alberta region.
1778Peter Pond of the United States established a trading post near Lake Athabasca.
1840Robert T. Rundle became the first missionary in the Alberta region.
1843Jean Thibault established the region's first Roman Catholic mission at Lac Ste. Anne.
1874The North-West Mounted Police established Fort Macleod.
1876-1877Native Americans signed two treaties surrendering central and southern Alberta to Canada.
1883The Canadian Pacific Railway reached Calgary.
1905Alberta became a province on September 1.
1914A major oil discovery was made in Turner Valley.
1921The United Farmers of Alberta, a new political party, came to power.
1935The Social Credit Party, another new organization, took over the Alberta government.
1947The discovery of oil at Leduc started widespread industrialization in Alberta.
1954The combined value of Alberta's mining and manufacturing exceeded that of agriculture for the first time.
1967Alberta's first plant to remove oil from bituminous sands began operation.
1971The Progressive Conservative Party came to power, ending 36 years of rule by the Social Credit Party.
1988The Winter Olympic Games were held in Calgary.
2006Stephen Harper, a member of Parliament from Calgary, became prime minister of Canada.
Canadian Possession

In 1869 Canada purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company for about $1,500,000. In 1870 this region and the western Indian country became part of the Dominion of Canada as the Northwest Territories. The North West Mounted Police were sent into the Territories in 1874 to bring law and order and suppress the illegal whiskey trade. In 1882 four provisional districts were created in the southern part of the Northwest Territories. One of these districts was Alberta.

The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in Alberta in 1883. In 1885 there was a brief uprising of the métis (persons of mixed French and Indian ancestry) and their Indian allies. A heavy influx of settlers began around the turn of the century; population soared from 73,022 to 374,295 during the period 1901–11.


The rapid population growth led to the organization of Alberta into a province in 1905. Alberta's first legislative assenbly met in 1906. The Liberal party government concerned itself with expanding the new province's agricultural economy and providing social services.

Economic hardships followed World War I and in 1921 brought the United Farmers of Alberta party to power. A number of economic reform measures were enacted. During the 1920's, agricultural cooperatives were formed. The depression of the 1930's led to the formation of the Social Credit party, which came to power in 1935. Conditions were slowly improving when mobilization for World War II sparked economic recovery and industrial development.

After the war, with much land still undeveloped, immigration and homesteading continued. The finding of oil in 1947 in central Alberta was the first of a series of major oil and natural gas discoveries in the province. In the 1960's and 1970's, plants were built in northeastern Alberta to extract oil from the Athabasca tar sands, one of the world's largest petroleum deposits. In the 1980's, a pipeline was constructed in Alberta to bring natural gas from Canada to the United States.