Records and Reconciliation: Wabasca Store

Photograph: Wabasca Store, [1963]. (SPRA 0002.05.06.294)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is a vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work toward Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

This photograph is from the Beth Sheehan fonds (Fonds 002). It depicts children standing in the doorway of the J. H. Houle General Store in Wabasca, in 1963.

Wabasca, also known as Wabasca-Desmarais, is a hamlet in northern Alberta, approximately 123 km northeast of Slave Lake. The name ‘Wabasca’ originates from the Cree word paskâw, meaning “white grass” the name for the Wabasca River. According to the 2016 census, the community is home to 1,406, largely Indigenous, individuals. Another 2,157 residents live on five reserves in the immediate surrounding area. Stores such as the J. H. Houle General Store were the nerve centres of many communities; central locations where people gathered to purchase needed items and share the news of the day.

To view more digitized images of Wabasca and area, visit Alberta on Record. Do you remember stores like this? Contact the Archives to share your memories!