An important geographical crossroads and supply depot, the Lac La Biche Mission was officially established in 1853. It was one of the first Albertan sites for exchanges between the Indigenous, Metis, Francophone and Anglophone populations.
The Lac La Biche Mission Site is a Roman Catholic mission located in a rural setting on the south shore of Lac La Biche lake, approximately 16 kilometres northwest of the hamlet of Lac La Biche. The historically-significant buildings on the site include a convent built in 1894, a church constructed in 1922-23, and several ancillary wood-frame buildings, including a laundry house, garage and chicken coop. Complementary features of the site include a cemetery and grotto, landscape features, and the archaeological remains of previous structures, including the Grey Nuns Convent and Rectory.
The heritage value of the Lac La Biche Mission Site lies in its association with the early establishment of religious life in Alberta, its connection with pioneering achievements in the province and its nineteenth-century French-Canadian missionary architecture.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Hudson's Bay Company, facing stiff competition from the growing ranks of free traders, decided to expand its northern operations and established a new trading post at Lac La Biche in 1853. Recognizing the post's strategic access to both the Churchill and Mackenzie drainage basins and appreciating the wealth of proselytizing opportunities afforded by the area's mixed population of Metis, Indigenous, and Euro-Canadians, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate founded the Notre-Dame des Victoires mission at Lac La Biche the same year. Shortly after the founding of Notre-Dame des Victoires, concerns about the feasibility of the site and the corrupting influences of the trading post prompted the Oblates to relocate the mission to its present site on the south shore of Lac La Biche.
Over the following decades, the Lac La Biche Mission Site would become the heart of the Oblates' territory in the province's north, a vital entrepot integrated into a vast river and land transportation network. The Mission's importance to Oblate operations was reflected in its selection as the Episcopal seat of Bishop Henri Faraud of the Athabasca District between 1877 and 1889.
For a more detailed history, please click the logo below to visit the official Lac La Biche Mission page on the Canadian Government website for Canada's Historic Places.
Also, by clicking the Collections Canada logo below, you can visit our digital archive at the Government of Canada's digital collections project website, where you'll find historical photos, scanned archive documents, old newspaper articles and first-person accounts of life at the Mission.