Anthony Henday is the first known European to have crossed the northern plains. In 1754, he was sent to persuade the northern plains groups to bring their furs to York Factory instead of trading with French traders who were advancing up the Saskatchewan River. Henday and Connawapa, a local Cree, were taken inland by Attickasish (or Little Deer), a Pegogamaw Cree leader. After visiting the French post at Basquia (The Pas, Manitoba), the group met their families up the Carrot River near modern Red Earth First Nation. They continued westward on foot, crossing the South Saskatchewan in make-shift canoes. Henday gives few details about the local geography, and is especially vague after they reached the Elbow of the North Saskatchewan River. Seemingly they followed the Battle River westward, perhaps to the Red Deer area, where they met a large camp of over 200 tents of “Archithinue,” an anglicized Cree term used for anyone other than Cree or Nakota. In the spring, the group built their canoes east of Edmonton. Henday gives few details of his return trip down the Saskatchewan, except to describe the French post near Fort à la Corne. No journal survives of Henday’s second journey inland in 1759–60.
Henday’s account presents many problems since his original journal is lost: there are four copies, each differing from the others. Although one version was published in 1908, the other three and his daily log were not published until 2000.