The lakes surround us. We live around their shores and all across the portage. Our community has taken root throughout this boreal bounty and along these pristine waters. Prior to 1928 Cranberry Portage was little more than the name implies, a portage in the route used by Indigenous people, explorers, and adventurers. Long before, the North West Company, and the Hudson Bay Company used the portage known as the “middle track, or the “middle trade route”, Indigenous families travelled across it annually to their summer hunting grounds. Found along these routes are artifacts showing occupancy as far back as 500 A.D.
The Grass River System was part of one of the major routes between Hudson Bay and the interior of the prairies. The first European known to have used Grass River was Joseph Smith who travelled the route downstream in 1763. Samuel Hearne used the Grass River to reach Cumberland House where he built the Hudson’s Bay Company’s first inland post in 1774. Twenty years later, David Thompson used the river on his famous exploration and trading expedition. His maps call Cranberry Portage, “Cranberry Carrying Place” indicating the profusion of low bush cranberries that existed here 250 years ago. Both explorers likely portaged between First Cranberry and Athapapuskow Lake near present day Cranberry Portage. Although there may not have been a permanent trading post established, records indicate that the Hudson Bay Company carried on trade with Indigenous people at Cranberry Portage.
If you listen closely, you may still hear the echo of the paddles...
PDF created by Mary Ann of community history information