Description du lieu patrimonial
Fort Vermilion, also known as Paint Creek House, is 15 kilometres north of Marwayne, Alberta and is located on a low northern terrace of the North Saskatchewan River, near its confluence with the Vermilion River. Situated on 0.8 hectares of land, the site is the location of two provisioning and fur trading posts that were operated by the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company respectively between 1802 and 1816. Artifacts collected from this site are stored in the collections of the Royal Alberta Museum.
The heritage value of Fort Vermilion lies in its representation as one of the 'paired fort' sites established by the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company during early nineteenth-century fur trading operations on the North Saskatchewan River.
Fort Vermilion, which should not be confused with Fort Vermilion I and Fort Vermilion II on the Peace River, was probably founded by James Hughes of the North West Company and Henry Hallet of the Hudson's Bay Company in or around 1802. It was likely built as a successor to the forts at Fort de L'Isle (near St. Paul, Alberta), and may have also been referred to by the name 'Island Fort' as an extension of its connection with its predecessor. Fort Vermilion/Paint Creek House was one of the two 'Forts des Prairies' locations known on the North Saskatchewan River.
When visited during 1808-1810 by explorer Alexander Henry, Fort Vermilion had at least 130 residents in 10 houses and 2 tents in the North West Company portion, while those associated with the Hudson's Bay Company portion of the post were not recorded. The posts, though established by rival trading companies, were situated within a common palisade for mutual protection. Their purpose was to conduct trade with local Aboriginal people, primarily those of the Blackfoot, Cree and Assiniboine groups. By mutual agreement of the two companies, the forts were abandoned in 1810 in favour of operations at Fort White Earth (Lower Terre Blanche, near Smoky Lake, Alberta). In 1811, however, Fort Vermilion/Paint Creek House was re-opened and remained in operation until 1816.
Archaeological investigation at the site in 1991 led to the collection of more than 3,600 artifacts, including fragments of materials such as metal, ceramics, glass, fabric, animal bones, wood, gun flints, kaolin pipes, catlinite and steatite objects, birchbark, bone tools, seeds, mollusc shells and eggshell. In addition, some artifacts of Aboriginal origin, including stone flakes, stone knives and modified cobbles, were also observed. In commemoration of the paired forts, a provincial cairn with a plaque marks the location.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 710). Smythe, Terry. 1968. Thematic Study of the Fur Trade in the Canadian West 1670-1870. Canadian National Historic Sites Service, Ottawa.
The character-defining elements of Fort Vermilion include such features as:
- the dual arrangement of the forts, set up in a common palisade by the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company;
- the site's location on the northern bank of the North Saskatchewan River, a site likely selected (like other "Forts des Prairies" established during the early part of the nineteenth century) for its proximity to areas regularly used for bison hunting by the Aboriginal people prior to the establishment of the forts;
- the historic records, which provide information about the fort through the eyewitness accounts of the explorer Alexander Henry, who remained at the location between 1808 and 1810;
- the archival records available for the site, which described trade at the post conducted not only with the Blackfoot, Cree and Assiniboine people, but also may have included the Tsuu T'ina and Gros Ventre (Atsina);
- the buried archaeological component of the site, which possesses a rich array of cultural materials of metal, glass, wood, stone and ceramics that can provide information about the activities conducted at fur trading posts in the early part of the nineteenth century;
- the existing archaeological collections, which provide the opportunity for additional analysis, interpretation and display.