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Sir Alexander Mackenzie was a Scottish explorer, fur trader, and a businessman, perhaps the most venturesome of all the explorers of the Northwest of North America.
See the fact file below for more information on the Alexander Mackenzie or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Alexander Mackenzie worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Mackenzie was one of the greatest explorers in Canada.
- In two major journeys for the North West Company in 1789 and 1793, Mackenzie crossed the dense northern wilderness to reach the Arctic and Pacific Oceans.
- Mackenzie was the first European to cross North America, where he inspired succeeding adventurers and traders, such as the famous Lewis and Clark expedition sponsored by the American military (1804–6).
- The Mackenzie River was named in his honor. It symbolizes the important place of Mackenzie as a pioneer and fur trader in Canadian history.
- Mackenzie was born around 1764 in Luskentyre House in Stornoway in Lewis.
- Born to Kenneth ‘Corc’ Mackenzie and his wife Isabella MacIver, who was from another prominent mercantile family in Stornoway, Alexander was the third among the four children.
- Mackenzie’s father worked as an ensign when he was only 14 years old, to protect Stornoway during the Jacobite rising of 1745.
- Upon the death of his mother, his father brought him to New York in 1774.
- His father fought as a loyalist during the American Revolution in 1776, and by 1778 he sent Alexander, for his safety as a son of loyalists, to Montreal.
- A brief period of schooling in 1778 was succeeded by his becoming a clerk in the small fur-trading firm of Finlay and Gregory (later Gregory, MacLeod, and Company).
- For 5 years, Alexander remained there and in 1784 he went to Detroit as a trader for the company.
- The company merged with the North West Company in 1787.
THE NORTH WEST COMPANY
- Alexander traveled to Lake Athabasca on behalf of the North West Company. From there, he became one of the founders of Fort Chipewyan in 1788.
- Alexander had been sent to succeed Peter Pond, a partner in the North West Company, who had been embroiled in a series of controversies and left the company in 1788.
- Peter Pond was convinced based on conversations with First Nations that Cook’s River (Cook Inlet, Alaska) on one of Captain Cook’s charts was the mouth of the large river that flowed westward out of Great Slave Lake and that it would present a travel route directly to the Pacific.
- Mackenzie replaced Pond as the head of operations in the northwest.
- He established Fort Chipewyan on the southern shore of Lake Athabasca with the help of Roderick Mackenzie, Alexander’s cousin.
- From there, Alexander would set out the following summer to explore Pond’s route to the Pacific.
THE 1789 EXPEDITION
- Believing that it would lead to Cook Inlet in Alaska, on July 3, 1789, Alexander set out by canoe with a small party of voyageurs and guides (including Nestabeck, a Chipewyan guide who was known as the “English Chief”) on the river known to the local Dene First Nations people as the Dehcho (Mackenzie River).
- On July 14th Alexander reached the Arctic Ocean, instead of the Pacific.
- Later, Alexander called the waterway “the River Disappointment,” in a letter to his cousin Roderick, considering that the river did not prove to be the Northwest Passage, as he had hoped.
- The river was later renamed the Mackenzie River in Alexander’s honor.
THE 1793 EXPEDITION
- Alexander planned a second voyage to the Pacific in 1792.
- He moved from Fort Chipewyan to Fort Fork, a new post on the Peace River also called Unjigah.
- On May 9, 1793, with a better understanding of western geography, Alexander and his cohorts left Fort Fork following the Peace, Parsnip, and McGregor Rivers.
- They sailed the Fraser River (which Mackenzie mistook for the Columbia) and later would be called Fort Alexandria – one of many places in British Columbia named in his honor.
- Directed by the local Carrier or Dakelh to complete the journey overland, Mackenzie traveled back up the Fraser, turned west, and arrived 12 days and 285 km later at the Bella Coola Gorge.
- They followed the Bella Coola River and reached the Pacific after they borrowed canoes from the local Nuxalk (or Bella Coola), arriving on July 22nd.
- On a rock, a simple inscription was painted: “Alexander Mackenzie from Canada by land 22 July 1793.”
- This made him the first to cross the continent North America north of Mexico.
- He had unknowingly missed meeting George Vancouver who had sailed up the coast and made contact with First Nations, likely the Heiltsuk (Bella Bella) people at Bella Coola by 48 days.
- Possibly due to that encounter, the Heiltsuk were suspicious of Alexander, but he handled the situation well and there was no violence.
- The group soon went back to Fort Fork, and safely reached the journey home in just a month.
- In totality, they had traveled 2,300 miles (over 3,700 km) to the Pacific and back.
- Now, the site is called the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Provincial Park and is appointed the First Crossing of North America National Historic Site.
LATER LIFE AND FAMILY
- The journals of Alexander’s fact-finding journeys were published In 1801.
- Alexander was knighted for his efforts in 1802.
- He served in the Legislature of Lower Canada for Huntingdon County in 1805.
- Three years later he returned to Scotland.
- In 1812 Alexander, at the age of 48, he married 14-year-old Geddes Mackenzie, heiress of Avoch. Together the couple had a daughter and two sons.
- After deteriorating in health, Alexander died on March 12, 1820.
- Being well-known for his 1789 and 1793 journeys to the Arctic and Pacific coasts, Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to traverse the continent north of Mexico.
- Even though his ideas for reorganizing the fur trade were refused at the time, some of them were adopted in the 19th century.
- The Mackenzie River, Mackenzie Bay, the municipality of Mackenzie, British Columbia, as well as the Mackenzie Mountains, a mountain range located in northern Canada, are all named after him.
- A few schools in Canada were named after him, like Sir Alexander Mackenzie Senior Public School in Toronto, Sir Alexander Mackenzie Elementary School in Vancouver, as well as the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Elementary School in St. Albert.
Alexander Mackenzie Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Alexander Mackenzie across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Alexander Mackenzie worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Sir Alexander Mackenzie who was a Scottish explorer, fur trader, and a businessman, perhaps the most venturesome of all the explorers of the Northwest of North America. Mackenzie was the first to travel overland to the Pacific Coast.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Alexander Mackenzie Facts
- Mackenzie Quick Facts
- Biographical Info
- National Historic Person
- Career Life
- Timeline of History
- In Mackenzie’s Honor
- Brief Stories
- Mentioned Rivers
- Arctic and Pacific
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Link will appear as Alexander Mackenzie Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 18, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
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