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Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta.

Donít believe for a moment the redneck stereotype thrown so glibly at Albertans by some pundits. Many of our public schools, for instance, teach French from kindergarten to grade twelve; French Immersion continues to attract many young Albertans. It is even possible to study only in French to the bachelorís level at the Faculte Saint Jean at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. There are also bilingual public school programs in Mandarin, Cree, Arabic, Ukrainian, and German, among other languages.

One challenge that Alberta and the rest of Western Canada pose to other Canadians is the adequacy of our present federal governance model. Most of our national institutions were essentially copied from those of Great Britain in place in 1867 when Canada was born, but today their democratic legitimacy is challenged, especially in the West. Many Albertans want them to be modernized so that residents of all five regions of the country will feel themselves to be politically, economically and culturally equal to their fellow Canadians.

History

Alberta was named for Queen Victoriaís fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the wife the Marquess of Lorne, who was Governor General of Canada in 1882.

The oldest identifies archaeological sites in Alberta date back approximately 11,000 years. When Europeans reached what is now Alberta in the mid 18th century, the area was home to many different aboriginal nations.

Calgary's cowboy image is still very much part of the culture of this modern, vibrant city. But while the cattle industry is still important in Alberta, the modern skyline of the city attests to the fact that it is second in Canada only to Toronto in the number of corporate head offices.  

In 1778, fur trader Peter Pond established the first trade post within the boundaries of modern Alberta. Soon other posts were constructed on the Athabasca, Peace and North Saskatchewan rivers by both the North West and Hudsonís Bay companies.

In the mid-19 century, several scientific expeditions, most notably Captain John Pallserís expedition of 1857-1860, examined the agricultural potential of the Canadian west. Paliser believed that the southern parries were too dry for farming. But farther north, he and other observers including the notable naturalist and geologist Henry Youle Hind, thought the land was fertile was well suited to agricultural settlement. In 1870, these lands, including most of present-day Alberta, were acquired by the Government of Canada.

The moose and calf - The largest members of the deer family, the moose is a strong swimmer and they are often seen in northern lakes feeding on delicate water lilies.

Settlement was slow until the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Alberta in 1883. The railway made it easier for new settlers to get to Alberta and sell the crops they grew. In 1891, a railway was completed from Calgary to Strathcona, across the North Saskatchewan River from Edmonton. Other railway lines followed, including the transcontinental Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian Northern railway, which reached Edmonton in 1911.

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