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Alberta: Wild Rose Country

A Land of Shining Mountains. Love at First Sight.

An Article written by David Kilgour which appears in 

"Canada: The New Millennium Series."

Malak's famous photo of a cattle drive on the Canadian prairie in early Spring has won many awards. 

It is always difficult to provide a short but adequate flavour to one’s home province in the complex Canadian federation. This is particularly true with regard to Alberta, a country-sized area with seven distinct regions and whose residents are of origin in virtually every member state of the United Nations.

Until recently, most of the world seemed to notice only our Rocky Mountains, rolling foothills, and glacier-fed rivers and lakes. Banff and Jasper National Parks are, of course, difficult for anyone, including other Canadians, to ignore when contemplating Alberta.

But what of the province’s half dozen modern cities, of which Edmonton, our provincial capital and home to many festivals, and Calgary, the business head office magnet, compete in numerous fields? The fierce, yet fun-filled competition includes population growth (both metropolitan centres have approximately one million), cultural life (symphony orchestras, ballet, art, opera, theatre) universities and colleges and sports (track & field, hockey, football, soccer, basketball and baseball).

The American Elk - The Shawnee Indians referred to this large deer (which can weigh up to 800 pounds) as waptiti or "white rump." It is the nosiest deer in Canada and during the mating season the males' bugle cry can carry for up to a mile.

During the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton Klondike Days, thousands of volunteers dress in period costumes and relive earlier days to the delight of visitors and themselves. Yet it is the modern Albertan themselves who year round make the province the formidable national force it is today.

Our First Nations peoples probably arrived thousands of years ago from Asia and succeed in establishing rich cultural and family lives in numerous communities, including the Blackfoot and Cree Nations. Later in the late nineteenth century, when an estimated sixty million buffalo were slaughtered mostly for ‘sport’ by outsiders, their way of life disappeared and painful decades of adjustment began.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, pioneer families from almost everywhere on earth arrived in Prairie Canada (which was know as the last, best West) to break land for crops and to build local churches of many faith and communities. In 1947, however, this settlement period changed substantively when oil was discovered near Edmonton. For example, the population of each province on the prairies was about 750,000; today Alberta has slightly more than three times the population of each of our two sister provinces (three million vs. one million).

Thousands of us work directly in the oil and gas sector, but far more earn livelihoods in related fields such as pipeline construction and software design. The immense wealth created by oil (“black gold”) and more recently by the relative pollution-free natural gas, has allowed our schools and 29 or so post-secondary educational institutions to flourish. Our publicly run health-care system, highways and social programs are also among Canada’s best. Many Albertans today know that abundant natural resources, unless handled with prudence and self-discipline, can prove to be a curse.

I think the really fascinating feature of the province is our unique cultural mosaic; a consequence partly of the reality that no ethno-cultural group is numerically dominant. Members of every community, including the larger ones (English, Scottish, Irish, First Nations, Chinese and French Canadian), believe that individuals are of equal worth and should have the freedom to choose their own lifestyle. A pattern of permissive differentiation in religion, language and culture, instead of assimilation emerged quite early in the province. Following some bitter experiences with prejudice and discrimination, a truly international society with a habit of inclusiveness developed in Alberta.

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