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Alexander Monkman (March 29, 1870-September 26, 1941) was a Canadian Métis trading pioneer.

Early life

Alexander Monkman was born at Manitoba House on March 29, 1870 and grew up around Fort Garry[1], however he and his family fled to Edmonton after the Red River Rebellion and received his education from mission schools. Monkman travelled to Montana and became a rodeo-rider before returning to Edmonton to begin working towards participating in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. However, after a while, Monkman realised that his convoy would not make it and was the only one to turn back - he never heard from his colleagues again.[1][2][3]

Career

Monkman was hired by Bredin and Cornwall to become the trading post manager at the new Grande Prairie site near Lake Saskatoon and moved there with his wife Louisa. Here he became the first non-Hudson's Bay Company trader in the region, and succeeded in cutting off Hudson's Bay Company furs from the region. This was the spot where Danezaa and Cree Indians met to form their summer camps, and a village soon sprang up around the trading post with mission churches, a bank and a post office. By the early 1900s Monkman held property of his own near Flying Shot Lake and received various grains from the government, who was trying to stimulate agricultural production in the area by handing out seeds to settlers for free.[1][2][3]

In 1922, while looking for tungsten in the Rocky Mountains, Monkman discovered a pass that would later be named in his honour. A problem the grain farmers in his region were facing at the time was how to transport their harvest to the seaport at Vancouver. Grain had to be transported by rail through Peace River, Edmonton and Calgary, a 1700-mile trip. Monkman's route cut 1000 miles off the total distance travelled, however the Yellowhead Pass was selected for a transport line through the mountains, even though engineers suggested that Monkman's pass was easier to traverse.[1][2][3]

By 1936, very high freight costs had taken their toll on the farmers, and Monkman suggested that the farmers build a highway through the Monkman Pass themselves to reduce freight costs. Thus a fundraising effort took hold; signs for the 'M.P.H.' (Monkman Pass Highway) littered the region and by 1937 the volunteers had passed the Alberta-British Columbia border and reached Kinuseo Falls, building a fishing resort there. However, the war brought an end to Monkman's career - the highway project ended in 1939 and he died on September 26, 1941 back at Grande Prairie.[1][2][3] His legacy now lives on in British Columbia's Monkman Provincial Park and Monkman Falls.[4]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Alexander Monkman (2) Dorthea Calverley (1973). Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Monkman, Alexander. Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Alexander Monkman (1). Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  4. ^ Canada's Historic Places listing. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
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