Albert Faille (1887-1973)
Keywords:Biographies, Explorers, Faille, Albert, 1887-1973, History, Parks, Trapping, Fort Simpson Territorial Park, N.W.T., Mackenzie Mountains, N.W.T./Yukon, Mackenzie River region, South Nahanni River
Abstract... Albert Faille was a simple man with no pretensions, a scanty formal education, and little knowledge of the academic world. But he was an excellent woodsman, and having spent much of his life on inland waters, he grew remarkable in his ability to navigate fast-flowing mountain streams. An inveterate "loner" without being eccentric or irascible, he had an unerring sense of direction and would often spend the summer months exploring mountain passes and valleys. In winter he trapped fur-bearing animals in order to pay for his supplies and equipment. Each summer in June, he came down the rivers to Fort Simpson, which at that time was an isolated trading-post at the junction of the Liard and Mackenzie rivers. He travelled by dog-team in winter; in summer, he walked overland with a pack on his back or canoed on the navigable streams. These explorations took him into areas where few, if any, white men had walked before. Beginning in the 1950s, he appeared in three different television documentaries wherein it was suggested that his obsession was to find a lost placer gold deposit. He did indeed spend much time in that fruitless search, but those who knew him well realized that it was a deep love for the woods, the wilderness, and the fast-moving mountain streams that amounted to an obsession, rather than the search for gold itself. Men who knew him, and who lived the same kind of life Albert Faille lived, were impressed with the quality of his character, his temperament, and his abilities. ... In retrospect, it can be seen that the contribution Alberta Faille made to Canada's North was twofold. Largely as a result of press publicity he generated, public attention was drawn to the remarkable scenic areas of the South Nahanni River and its Virginia Falls. Canadian federal authorities took note, and following Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's trip into the region by airplane and river boat, the present Nahanni National Park was created. The second part of his contribution was inadvertent and less obvious, but just as real and perhaps of a more profound importance: interest in Albert Faille and his life as a trapper, prospector, and explorer inspired several writers to record his exploits in the North. Both adults and children now know of Faille at first-hand through these accounts. The writings in turn have led to a more extensive and accurate picture of the life of a northern pioneer and have laid to rest some of the misconceptions of early life in the Canadian North. At the age of 70, he still plied the waters of the South Nahanni River with his little wooden boat. He passed away quietly early in 1973 at the age of 86.