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“Perseverance” is the Town of Fort Smith’s motto, adopted as such by Town Council in 1969. This was the motto of Donald Alexander Smith, after whom the Town is named.
The Town’s emblem was designed by the late University of Saskatchewan engineering professor A.L.C. Atkinson, at the request of Town Council.
The following is a brief poem describing the emblem:
Behold the great wood buffalo upon the grass at rest;
A lariat of water blue and ice completes the crest.
See on the shield amid the snow the mighty river wind;
The Slave, historic days of long portages brings to mind;
Bush pilots then, jet liners now, two fiery wings in flight;
The national park above with trees and buffalo in sight.
The green, green grass of home depicts the fertile northern earth;
The fort reminds us all of when this frontier town had birth;
The North of 60 gate like open arms you’re welcomed with;
Yes, welcome to the North’s own Garden Capital, Fort Smith.
Written by Robin Beaumont, former municipal administrator
The Town of Fort Smith owes its existence to the four sets of formidable rapids on the Slave River. These rapids had to be portaged around by the fur traders who settled the North. Portaging was originally done in three stages on the east bank of the river, but was eventually pared to a single 16-mile portage on the west bank. When the single portage was initiated in 1874, the Hudson Bay Company built premises at “Thebacha”, a small settlement below the rapids established by James King Beaulieu, thereby creating what would become the Town of Fort Smith.
The settlement was named for Donald Alexander Smith, Lord Strathcona, the resident governor of the Hudson Bay Company and an original member of the North West Council.
The other force in the settlement of the territory, the Roman Catholic Church, had already been established at Salt River in the home of “Patriarch Beaulieu”. The mission was transferred to Fort Smith in 1876 and named St. Isadore’s.
On the heels of the traders and missionaries came the federal government, represented by A.J. Bell and the colourful Dr. MacDonald, who both arrived in 1911. In spite of the federal government’s presence, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, located at Smith’s Landing (Fort Fitzgerald), were responsible for the practical administration of the area until 1927.
The year 1921 was a watershed year for the community of Fort Smith. In that year, the Hudson Bay Company brought in the first truck, Imperial Oil the first plane (it landed on a field south of the existing health centre), and construction began on the first government administrative building. 1921 also saw the first Court of Justice held in Fort Smith.
Wood Buffalo National Park was created in 1922, and between 1925 and 1927, 6,000 bison were relocated to the park from Wainwright, Alberta.
A communication link with southern Alberta was established in 1925 through wireless radio.
Schooling was provided by the churches up until 1938, when a public school was opened to replace the one run by the Anglican mission. The Roman Catholic School flourished until the NWT government became responsible for education.
A major factor in the development of transportation services was the 1942 influx of 2,000 American army personnel on their way to the Canol Project near Norman Wells. While in Fort Smith, they rebuilt the portage trail, created a winter road to Hay River, and built the current airport.
Local government commenced in Fort Smith in 1954 with the election of a local advisory council and progressed first to village status in the early 1960s, and then to town status in 1966.
Fort Smith continues to be a government and educational centre serving the people of the North.
The true story of the amiable Muffaloose
This incredible story begins during the winter of 1971-72, when a Muffaloose was shot for the first time. The story was at first suppressed, but some folks in our community obtained enough valuable details to help to throw light on this most unusual animal.
It was the Great Squirrel-Hunter, Archie Larocque, who bagged the Muffaloose that winter. The animal was so named by the few people who saw the remains when it was flown to the Fort Smith Airport by 'Steamer Stan' Edkins, the well-known bush pilot. Larocque had known about these strange, shy animals for some time, but they are very hard to track. Parks Canada confiscated the carcass before it could be seen by the masses, and to this day no one knows what happened to it.
The question most people ask is, “How did this happen? How could a moose and a buffalo mate?”
Well, friends, it seems that during the great forest fires in Wood Buffalo National Park in the late 1960s and early 1970s, forest firefighters used a fire retardant that was spread from the air over the burning forest. Apparently, the material they used acted as a fertilizer and wreaked havoc with the vegetation on which the moose and the buffalo pastured.
Larocque, who is the only person known to have frequented the area other than Parks Canada representatives, tells stories about how the fire retardant caused a rapid growth in some of the area foliage: the mosses, the grasses, and the trees. “It altered the growth of the trees, making them very wide at the bottom and narrow at the top,” he says. It also did something to the animals, making them uncharacteristically frisky. Although Parks Canada said it was impossible, the moose and the buffalo evidently bred. The proof was brought into Fort Smith late in the winter of 1972.
The bagged Muffaloose is estimated to be a three-year-old bull, and Larocque says that although they are very shy, these animals are very amiable. Larocque is credited with bringing the mounted head of the specimen into the Town of Fort Smith's possession. The Town was reluctant to show it at first, but as Parks Canada refused to acknowledge this ecological phenomenon, the Town felt it was best to showcase the trophy to all who want to see it. It now hangs in the lobby of the Recreation and Community Centre.
Larocque doesn't go back to that area of the Park these days, but the rumours of sightings of a strange-looking animal persist. These whispered reports are mainly from truckers, travelling the long, lonely road through the Park at night. Of course, Parks Canada denies it.
But we know they exist, so if you are lucky enough to see one of these shy but amiable Muffaloose, please share news of your discovery.
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, X0E 0P0, CANADA
Phone: (867) 872-8400, Fax: (867) 872-8401
Email: Town of Fort Smith
Office hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30AM - 12:00PM, 1:00-5:00PM
Closed weekends and statutory holidays
Copyright 2012 Town of Fort Smith. All rights reserved.