Community Name: Fort Smith
Traditional Name: Thebacha (beside the rapids)
Electoral District: Thebacha
Member of the Legislative Assembly: J. Michael Miltenberger
Member of Parliament: Dennis Bevington
Senator: Nick G. Sibbeston
His Worship Mayor B.G. (Brad) Brake
Town of Fort Smith
P.O. Box 147
Fort Smith, NT X0E 0P0
Location: Fort Smith is located at 60'00'N latitude and 111'53'W longitude and is the southernmost community in the NWT. The town is situated on the shore of the Slave River south of the "Rapids of the Drowned" and immediately north of the NWT/Alberta border. Fort Smith is 322 air km southwest of Yellowknife.
Population: 2,466 (NWT Bureau of Statistics, 2010)
Languages: Chipewyan, Cree, Michif, English
Access: The community is accessible by both air and road. Regularly scheduled air service is offered.
History: The Slavey Dene originally occupied the area around Fort Smith however by 1870 the Cree occupied the Slave River forcing the Dene to move north. By this time the Caribou Chipewyan had also moved into the area and signed Treaty No. 8 at Smith's Landing on July 17, 1899.
In 1874 the Hudson Bay trading post was set up near the portage route and Fort Smith's location on Slave River offered an important link for water traffic between the south and the Mackenzie River valley. Alexander Mackenzie had navigated the Slave River in his quest for a route to the Western Ocean. The Fort was named for Donald Alexander Smith, later Lord Strathcona, a builder of the CPR, a Hudson Bay Company governor and a member of the first NWT Council.
In 1876 the Roman Catholic Mission was moved to Fort Smith from Salt River and staff operated a sawmill and farm as a service to the people. Four years later the Hudson Bay Company built an outpost at the south end of the rapids called Smith's Landing. The RCMP set up in 1915 and renamed the place Fort Fitzgerald in honor of the inspector who died on the Dawson Patrol from Fort McPherson in 1911. In 1914 the Mission sawmill produced lumber for the first hospital and for the school a year later. A federal government administration building was built in 1921 and the first court of justice in the Mackenzie District convened in Fort Smith that same year. Wood Buffalo National Park, near the community, was founded in 1922 and by the late 1920s Fort Smith began to boom. The opening of an airport and radio station brought people and new income to the community and in 1934 many came in search of Yellowknife's gold and Fort Smith became an important stopover. The Anglican Mission House and Church were built in 1939 to accommodate travelers and residents. In 1942 the United States Army barged soldiers and equipment down the Slave River to build a tractor road to Hay River en route to Canol Oil pipeline. Fort Smith became the single-most important transportation and administration centre for the Mackenzie District until 1967 when the territorial capital moved to Yellowknife. Today Fort Smith remains the administrative capital for the region with government, hunting, fishing and trapping being key to the economy. Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest national park in Canada and the park that contains the last sizeable herd of Wood Bison in the world, attracts numerous visitors to the area as well.