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Region

The making of Canada, since Confederation in 1867, has been about the struggle to bridge regional differences based on geography, language and culture. Even within a province such as Alberta, community identity can have regional variations. The Women of Aspenland Virtual Exhibit explores women’s history within a specific region of Alberta. With respect to Natural Regions, the area is known as the Parkland Region. “Aspenland” is a term used to describe central Alberta, the “big middle” of the province situated between the cities of Calgary to the south and Edmonton to the north. From east to west, Aspenland stretches from the Alberta/Saskatchewan provincial border to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. It is a region covering over 50,000 square kilometres and is home to approximately 225,000 people. The City of Red Deer is the largest centre in the region, with a population of nearly 70,000 people.

Featured Article: The Aspen Parkland: A Biological Preserve by W. Bruce McGillivray

Aspenland Region refers to the trembling aspen or poplar (Populus tremuloides)—the dominant tree of the region. For biologists, the Aspen Parkland is a transitional zone between the arid grasslands to the south and the wetter, cooler Boreal Forest to the North. It marks the zone between Foothills and Prairie from West to East. It is a uniquely Canadian landscape, also found in parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and is a natural region as well as an ecosystem. It is a part of the Great Plains that supported the hunter/gatherer societies of the First Nations of the central part of North America. With respect to the settlement of the Province of Alberta, it shaped the kind of agricultural and other economic activity that took place in the region, and also gave a unique flavour to the settlement history.

Physical Geography

Central Alberta is characterized by its rich soils and plentiful water. These made it a desirable location for settlement and also have shaped the economy of the region.

History and Development

The Government of Canada’s promotion of western settlement to break the land brought individuals and groups to the area. The character of communities in the region has been shaped by them.

Social and Economic Life

Collective activity is a characteristic of the region. Many religious denominations were drawn to the region by its physical geography and have shaped and continue to shape community life.

Rural Life

The region has strong rural roots and, as with other parts of the West, has experienced the movement of people from farms to towns with the consolidation of small land holdings to larger farms. As well, intensive farming operations (for example, cow-calf and pig farms) are challenging communities in the region as well as impacting adversely on the environment.

Cities and Towns

While Red Deer is the region’s primary city, there are many surrounding towns with their own strong identities. This is evident through the number of community museums in the region and their role in preserving historic buildings and artifacts.