Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario Canada

Discovering Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario: A Rich Tapestry of History and Culture

Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario, is a Cree First Nation nestled in the Cochrane District in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. This community, part of the territory covered by Treaty 9, is situated on the southern shore of the Albany River and is accessible only by air, water, or winter road. This article delves into the rich history and vibrant culture of this unique community.

A Glimpse into the History of Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

The Mushkegowuk or Swampy Cree have hunted and lived on the western shore of James Bay from time immemorial. They shared the territory with other Algonquian peoples, including the Anishinaabe, in a relationship characterized by mutual respect and equality, symbolized by gift-giving, feasting, and speech-making.

The Hudson's Bay Company Post in Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

The area was explored by Charles Bayly, the first overseas governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, around 1675. The original Fort Albany was established in 1679, making it one of the oldest and most important Hudson's Bay Company posts. The fort was involved in Anglo-French tensions leading to the Battle of Fort Albany in 1688. The current community is not the site of the old post, which was relocated several times, including on Anderson Island, Albany Island (c.1721), and a location just northeast of the current community. The last trading post was closed around the 1950s.

Land Transfer to Canada and Treaty No. 9

In 1868, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered their North American territory known as Rupert's Land to Great Britain, which then gave it to the newly-formed Dominion of Canada. This led to the signing of Treaty No. 9 in 1905, which was ratified in a signing ceremony at Fort Albany.

The Formation of Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

The text of Treaty 9 called for reserve lands to be set aside based on a proportion of 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometres) per family of five. The treaty also promised to provide for the salaries of teachers, and the cost of school buildings and equipment. In 1906, Fort Albany Residential School (also known as St. Anne's) opened at the Fort Albany Mission site on Albany Island.

The Split with Kashechewan in Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

Old Fort Albany, which was on an island between the modern-day communities of Fort Albany and Kashechewan First Nations, became separated into Anglican and Roman Catholic sections. Subsequently, the Roman Catholic mission and the Roman Catholic portion of the community moved to the current site of modern-day Fort Albany, on the southern shore of the river. The Anglican portion of the community some years later moved to the current site of Kashechewan, on the north shore.

The Geography of Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

The present-day community of Fort Albany is situated on the south bank of the Albany river, near where it empties into James Bay. Fort Albany has a subarctic climate with mild summers and severely cold winters. This is characterised by a yearly mean temperature below the freezing point at −2 °C (28 °F).

The Annual Break-up in Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

A regular occurrence in the climate of Fort Albany is the annual break-up of ice on the coast of James Bay during the spring thaw, which can cause massive flooding in the community, as well as dangerous ice floes floating downriver.

The Demographics and Language of Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

A majority of the residents surveyed for the 2021 Canadian census (420 of 775) reported speaking an Indigenous language to some degree at home, all but 75 of which also spoke English to some degree. The Swampy Cree language is the language of the Mushkegowuk.

The Infrastructure and Transportation in Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

The community of Fort Albany is accessible by air, water, and the winter road. The winter road is used only between January and March. Air Creebec provides Fort Albany with daily passenger flights, with connecting flights to Toronto, Montreal and/or other points of travel.

Internet Access in Fort Albany First Nation, Ontario

As of October 2022, Starlink provided high-speed satellite internet access to Fort Albany. The Western James Bay Telecom Network is a community-based organization that provides high-speed fibre-optic internet to the communities of the west James Bay coast.