Summer Village of West Cove and Lac Ste. Anne Area - Our
The Summer Village of West Cove is located approximately 80 km
northwest of Spruce Grove and 100 km northwest of Edmonton, Alberta
on the south shores of Lac Ste.
Anne, Alberta. It was officially incorporated on January 1,
1963. West Cove had a permanent population of 169 in the 2006
Federal Census. There are approximately 600 temporary residents and
West Cove is a diverse community. Its residents enjoy the rural
outdoor environment and all that it has to offer. Much of the
activity centers around the lake. Residents enjoy boating,
canoeing, waterskiing and fishing during the summer months. In the
winter there is snowmobiling, skating and cross country skiing. The
Summer Village of West Cove is also part of the Lac Ste. Anne
Multi-use Trail Committee. The residents enjoy riding and walking
these trails on a year round basis.
Since the early 1900's, Alberta's lakeshore property has been
purchased for cottage use with public beaches being developed along
road and rail routes accessible from larger urban centres.
Traditionally, summer villages evolved from cottage resort areas
where seasonal residents desired a role in local government.
Lac Ste. Anne
People from all over the world have found a haven along the
shores of Lac Ste. Anne. To the south, coal mines generate power
and employment. Recreational businesses have flourished because of
the lake. Agriculture is still a main stay and the area is known
for its ability to grow some of the best oat crops in Canada.
Lac Ste. Anne enjoys a long human history before the lake was
ever considered for recreational purposes. Lac Ste. Anne has a long
history related to the first European settlements in Alberta.
It was first called Wakamne, or God's Lake by the
Nakota Sioux, and Manitou Sakhahigan (Lake of the Spirit)
by the Cree first nations before the arrival of the
The legend goes that the Indians hunted buffalo, and fished in
the lake called Manitou Sakhahigan. Indian legend told of a large
monster that lived in the lake, and as it moved it would create
dangerous and unpredictable currents, which could easily capsize a
canoe. Very few people saw the monster but when the priests came
they renamed the lake Devil's Lake in reference to the reported
Elders of Alexis Reserve remember their Grandparents telling of
how as children they would go out on the lake and peer down through
the then clear water to the lake bottom in search of the monster.
They would hope and fear that they might actually see its legendary
The Lac Ste. Anne Mission
In 1842 a Roman Catholic priest, Father Thibault, decided to
create a permanent mission for the Métis people. Devil's Lake was a
central location with good fertile fields, tall trees for lumber,
and plenty of fish and wildlife. It was also far enough away from
the Hudson's Bay politics found in Fort Edmonton. On September 8,
1842, Father Thibault renamed the lake to Lac Ste. Anne, honoring
his promise to the patron saint, Ste. Anne. He and another priest,
Father Bourassa, moved into a newly constructed home without doors
or windows, and with a dirt floor. The building would also serve as
the church until one could be constructed (completed in 1843).
So began the Mission of Lac Ste. Anne. Along with the teachings
of the church, the priests also taught the people how to farm. They
had predicted the demise of the buffalo, and strove to make the
Métis people self-sufficient. By 1859 the mission boasted 17 fat
and fine cows, 15 horses, 10 dogs, 10 cats, and a garden with
flowerbeds. Pigs and sheep were not raised because of the dogs and
wild predators. Crops included wheat, barley, potatoes, cabbage,
onions, and turnips. The Mission supplied Fort Edmonton with the
majority of its food.
In 1859, three Gray Nuns journeyed the arduous trek from
Montreal to the Mission. They were the third, fourth and fifth
white women to travel to Alberta. On September 24, Lac Ste. Anne
welcomed these brave women with enough mud to bog down their wagon
at the entrance to the Mission. The Sisters began their lives here
by learning the Cree language, starting a school, helping in the
gardens and painting the windows of the church so that worshipers
would not be distracted by the beauty outside during services.
The Mission grew until there were over 2000 people. The Hudson's
Bay store, a separate school, an orphanage retreat, a North-West
Mounted Police barracks, a dance hall, a post office, several
stores, saloons and hotels moved into the area complimenting the
church, rectory and convent. At one time this mission was larger in
population and commerce than Fort Edmonton. Father Lacombe, arrived in 1852. In 1861
he decided to build a new mission at St. Albert. When he left Lac
Ste. Anne, the mission was almost deserted by pastors and flock.
All that was left were a few homes, the church and rectory, and the
Lac Ste. Anne has, since the time of the Plains Indians, been
reported to be an instrument of healing. As far back as 1889 the
priests recorded healing of various ailments: from general
sickliness to tuberculosis, gout, or paralysis, that the waters of
Lac Ste. Anne were reported to cure. Testimony is displayed at a
shrine in the form of crutches and sight canes no longer needed by
the owners. Today pilgrims come to the lake from all over the
world, many walking miles bare-footed as penance to witness or to
be a part of the miracle of healing. Over forty thousand people now
attend the annual pilgrimage in the last week of July, which is
sponsored by the Oblate Fathers. Priests, bishops and cardinals all
come to help people in the curing of physical and spiritual
ailments. Oaths of sobriety, along with other life style promises
are made, and prayers and forgiveness are given. The Lac Ste.
Anne Pilgrimage was declared a National
Historic Site of Canada in 2004 for its social and cultural
importance. It is the largest Native gathering in North America on
an annual basis.