Anthony Henday (fl. 1750–1762) was one of the first European men to explore the interior of the Canadian northwest.
Henday was from the Isle of Wight, he may have been baptised in Shorwell on 24 December 1725.
His explorations were authorized and funded by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) because of their concern with La Vérendrye and the other western commanders who were funnelling fur trade from the northwest to their forts. Eventually, James Isham, chief at York Fort, suggested someone go to western Rupert's Land to encourage trade with the region's First Nations tribes.
Since the 1600s to the late 1800s the Hudson Bay's Company had the exclusive fur trade for the land within what was considered Hudson Bay's watershed. This region was known as Rupert's Land. For the furs that HBC was after they wanted to trade commodities like tobacco, kettles, axes, mirrors, beads, and alcohol. As Henday travelled inland to the Blackfeet country and back to York Factory he talked about the Indians having some problems with alcohol. He mentions on one day that his whole company being unable to travel because everyone was drinking. On Friday, May 30, 1755 Henday remarks on his journal that he is unable to continue their travels back to York Factory because "the Indians drank too much" but they were using their best furs to trade with the French for the alcohol. The whiskey trade was very brisk for the Hudson Bay's Company. In 1785 York Factory was taking in 2,000 gallons a year. As trade with the Blackfeet began this amount changed to about 8,000 gallons per year. By this time York Factory had its own still. It should be noted that both the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company knew that in order to trade with the Blackfeet, both of these Companies had to make the Blackfeet dependent on liquor. The HBC and NWC competed with each other as to who could supply more alcohol to the Blackfeet so that the Blackfeet would then trade with the successful supplier of whiskey.
Henday volunteered to undertake an expedition into this territory. A convicted smuggler, he joined the HBC in 1750 as a net-maker and labourer. Henday had gained experience in inland travel after arriving at York Factory. On June 26, 1754, he set out with a group of Plains Indians on foot to travel from York Factory to present-day Red Deer, Alberta. It is documented they passed the French Fort Paskoya where he may have met La Corne, the western commander.
On September 10, 1754 Henday and his party camped approximately eighteen miles north-east of where Chauvin is located today, quite possibly at Sherlock Lake. The following day, Wednesday, September 11, 1754 he crossed over from Saskatchewan into present-day Alberta. However, he does not arrive at Waskesew River until Friday, October 11, 1754. What should be noted here is that waskesew is a miss-translation of the Cree word for elk. The Crees in the Red Deer area call is central Alberta city Waskesew Ceepee. Instead of Red Deer the city should be called Elk River.
In October 1754 he and his group came to what is now Alberta from York Factory with a mission to meet the Blackfoot and perhaps trade with them.
After receiving an indefinite answer from the Blackfoot (which Henday took as a “no”), Henday returned to York Factory with news he had explored the area and met with the Blackfoot. Since the answer had been unsure, there were no more expeditions to Alberta. What Henday may not have been aware was that the Blackfeet and the Crees were arch enemies. There is some indication in Henday's journal entries that the Crees were becoming wary of the other tribes Henday and his Cree companions were encountering. While the group was travelling in what Henday refers to the "Muscuty plains" they come across "Attickasish with 2 Archithinue Natives (Blackfeet)". He says these Indians had never been in contact with any Europeans and his Cree travelling companions were afraid of them. Then on Monday, October 14, 1754 Archithinue Natives on horse back approach them and ask them if they are friend or foe. That evening Henday and his guide met and smoked with the Leader of the Archithinue Natives. Henday offered to have some of the Archithinues go back with them back to York Factory. The Archithinue Leader did not really answer that Henday and the Leader went on to say that they (Archithinue) could not paddle and the it (York Factory) was too far. The Leader of the Archithinue, probably, knew that his men would be travelling uninvited in Cree territory and would be killed off by the Crees and other enemy tribes.
This trip, and later ones, took Henday across much of the prairies of what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although his journal cannot always be put in a modern context, it is evident he brought much trade to York Factory. Records show some of the trade also went to the French at Fort Saint-Louis (Fort de la Corne) and Fort Paskoya which were on the route to Hudson Bay. He left the service of the HBC in 1762 largely because his efforts for the company, at least in his estimation, had not been properly recognized.
Anthony Henday Drive, a large ring road in Edmonton, is named in his honour, as is Henday Hall, one of the residence towers in the main student residence complex at the University of Alberta in that city.