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April 16, 1739

Saskatchewan River, “the river that flows swiftly”

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By —— Bio and Archives April 17, 2010

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In every historian’s career there will be numerous times when information will contradict with each other, a war of words, if you will. Some sources claim it was La Vérendrye who found the Saskatchewan River (SR) while other sources claim it was Henry Kelsey who did.

Instead of looking foolish I decided not to give claim but to praise both early explorers for finding the SR. Since I could find only one date which is April 16; logically this is the date we celebrate.

La Vérendrye (1685 – Dec. 5, 1749) was the third son of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Vérendrye. He was born at Trois-Rivières, New France and was active in his father’s trade activities from Fort Kaministiquia to the North Saskatchewan River.

In 1738 he was part of his father’s expedition to Mandan country in what is now North Dakota.  In 1739 he accompanied his brother, Louis-Joseph, and together they discovered the SR.

No maps, no radios, not a single luxury would be carried with him or his team. The food they ate would be trapped as they ventured forward. La Verendrye’s exploits were officially recognized in 1749, when he was awarded the Cross of St. Louis. He died in Montreal on Dec. 5, 1749.

Another source states that Henry Kelsey (1667 – 1724), penetrated the area in the 1690s for the Hudson’s Bay Company about 49 years before La Verendrye. Would Kelsey be the one who discovered the SR? I’ll leave that up to you, the reader.

Kelsey aka the Boy Kelsey started working before he was 20 for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). He moved to North America, where he worked with western natives

During the years 1690 to 1691, Kelsey travelled with the Cree Nation and explored what is now northern Manitoba from Hudson Bay to the SR. He is traditionally believed to be the first recorded European man to see what are now the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

He is the first European known to have seen the prairies, the great buffalo herds and grizzly bears, After years in pre-Canada, Kelsey returned at age 55 to England in 1722. He died two years later, and was buried in St. Alfege’s Church, Greenwich.

The SR and its two major tributaries formed an important transportation route during the Precontact, fur trade, and early settlement periods in the Canadian West.

If Kelsey came across the SR 49 years before La Vérendrye, does this give credit to Kelsey of discovering the SR?

The answer my friend may be floating down the SR which are a huge part of our history. our country.

Ronald Wolf -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Ronald Wolf is a college graduate of a renowned journalism program at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario Canada. He has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines in three different countries. He is a former newspaper owner who specializes in photography and writing.

He presently resides in northwestern, Ontario Canada where he continues to research and write articles about Canadian history, Canadian paranormal and other interesting articles.