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Early Airdrie History

Olivia Irwin
Sunday, May 26, 2024
Early Airdrie History

The history of Airdrie and surrounding areas, as with the rest of Alberta and Canada, is deeply complex and often fraught. 

 

Airdrie is located within Treaty 7 land, which was established in September 1877 by the British Crown, and the Siksiká, Kainai, Piikani, Tsuu T’ina and Nakoda Nations, of which Southern Alberta made up a significant part of their traditional lands. Although this seems like a long time ago and there are not very many mainstream sources of information on the Airdrie area’s specific Indigenous history, this is relevant to the founding of Airdrie because sources say that the town was officially named less than 20 years after the signing of Treaty 7. The context to consider here is that the Indigenous communities that have traditionally existed in this land had very recently been moved onto reserves by the British Crown in order to make room for a steady influx of European immigrants being directed to settle in central and Western Canada, and had been forcefully expunged from the area by the beginning of the 20th century.

 

The City of Airdrie website notes that there is some speculation around who may have named the town between 1889 and 1893, stating that it could either be an anonymous Scottish railway worker coming through the town, or Sir William Lyon Mackenzie, one of the main instigators and leaders of the Lower Canada Rebellions in 1837 and 38. However, the effects of the rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada (which is how Canada was divided before the provinces were established. What we now call Eastern Canada would have been mostly Upper Canada, and the Western Provinces made up what was Lower Canada) would have settled down by the time Airdrie came into existence, and would not have played much of a role in the foundations of the small railway town. In any case, records show that Airdrie is likely named after a town in Scotland of the same name, and, what we now see as the Airdrie-Calgary area was most populated by immigrants of Scottish descent at the outset of the railway town.

 

Airdrie was settled around the same time the Calgary area was settled. It may just be a coincidence that Calgary grew much larger much faster than Airdrie, but it is likely that Calgary was a more popular place in which to settle because of the larger water sources. Along with that, the Airdrie area was boggier, and more prone to flooding than Calgary. While there are minimal resources online regarding the earlier history of Airdrie, it is most likely that, as both towns developed, Airdrie was better suited to be a kind of small railway support town for Calgary, with a natural infrastructure not suited to such a large population.

 

In any case, Airdrie has a nuanced and interesting past. If you found this look into our municipal past intriguing, stay tuned for future dives into our local history!



 

References

 

Author unknown. “History and Heritage.” City of Airdrie - History and heritage. Accessed May 25, 2024. https://www.airdrie.ca/index.cfm?serviceID=2092. 

 Author unknown. “Negotiating Treaty 7.” Negotiating Treaty 7 | Canadian History Hall | Canadian Museum of History. Accessed May 25, 2024. https://www.historymuseum.ca/history-hall/negotiating-treaty-7/#:~:text=Negotiating%20Treaty%207%201%20Envisioning%20Peaceful%20Coexistence%20Between,7%2C%20Piikani%20oral%20history%20...%206%20Photos%20. 


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