Portrait of Alexander MacKenzie, 1800, Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Canada, 76.3 x 64 cm
Sir Alexander Mackenzie (or MacKenzie, Scottish Gaelic: Alasdair MacCoinnich, 1764 – March 12, 1820) was a Scottish explorer. Mackenzie was born in Stornoway on the isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. In 1774, his family moved to New York and then to Montreal in 1776 during the American Revolution. In 1779 he worked for Finley and Gregory, a fur trading Company later administered by Normand Macleod. In 1779, Mackenzie obtained a job with the North West Company on whose behalf he traveled to Lake Athabasca and founded Fort Chipewyan in 1788. He was sent to replace Peter Pond, a partner in the North West Company. From Pond, he learned that the First Nations people understood that the local rivers flowed to the northwest. Acting on this information, he set out by canoe on the river known to the local Dene First Nations people as the Dehcho, (Mackenzie River) on July 10, 1789 following it to its mouth in the hope of finding the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. As he ended up reaching the Arctic Ocean, it is conjectured that he named the river "Disappointment River" as it did not lead to Cook Inlet in Alaska as he had expected. The river was later renamed the Mackenzie River in his honor.
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