Prince Albert Tales
History has seen ironic goodness rise out of tragedy. One example can be found in a far off event which many of us have heard about, but see little relation to our fair Prince Albert. The bloody massacre involving General George Custer of the American Cavalry and the great Chief Sitting Bull is the case in point. The 1876 battle of The Little Big Horn was to prove to have a major positive impact on the Education System in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan - an impact that continues today. A diminutive, but determined, woman of 5' 3", trying painfully to paddle a small canoe across the North Saskatchewan River, lies at the centre of this dramatic story. The canoeist was Lucy Margaret Baker .
In the early 1900's Prince Albert, a small religious settlement, and a struggling fur trade outpost, was on the brink of dramatic change. The railroad was coming, timber resources were readily available, and most recently, coal - ‘white coal’ - the fuel of unlimited richness - had been discovered. This white coal would not flow from mining, but from the fast-moving river sweeping through the city.
Charles H. Mitchell, an engineer from Toronto, brought an electrifying dream to the City. He claimed that a few miles east of the City a set of river rapids, named after John Cole, an 18th century fur trader, could provide more than 10,000-h.p. of electricity, white gold that would make the city rich with industries and excess power.
Grey Owl, a self-made aboriginal, famous for his conservation efforts, and for his ‘creative and romantic’ portrayal of a North American Indian, was in reality Archibald Belaney, an English immigrant to Canada. His story captured the imagination of Canadians, Europeans, and Royalty.
Few of us know the story of another Englishman from Prince Albert, who prior to Grey Owl’s emergence on the stage of Canadian History, rose to notoriety as a self proclaimed Metis, and one who served in the ‘cabinet’ of none other than Louis Riel. He was born William Henry Jackson, and came from Ontario to live in our city. When Riel, in 1884, called for fair treatment for his people, Jackson sided with that cause, moved to Batoche, and commenced to call himself by, what he thought was a much more alluring name, Honore Jaxon, and also claimed to be Metis.