Fingerprints in Glass: Obsidian and Ancient Human Relationships

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta

A butchered bison leaves bones behind; a fur trade post leaves rotting walls for archaeologists to discover. But humans are more than what we eat and build. To many, our lives are defined by relationships to other people. How do archaeologists in Alberta uncover and reconstruct human relations from 10,000 years ago when not much preserves in the soil?

Archaeologists use microscopic clues to link stone artifacts back to the quarries where the rock originated; this “provenance” work can reveal ancient networks. In a blend of geochemistry and sociology, researchers use volcanic rocks in particular to understand how groups interacted and moved across landscapes for millennia.

Obsidian arrowhead found in the Grande Prairie area of northwest Alberta. Source: Todd Kristensen.
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Black History Month 2021

Editor’s note: From the largest student occupation in Canadian history to larger-than-life historical figures, here are handful of laws, events and people that contributed to the Black experience here in Canada. Follow the links below for more in-depth information on these events and people.

Written by: Garnett Glashen

Viola Desmond
Not only was Viola Desmond a successful businesswoman in Nova Scotia, she was an advocate for equal and fair treatment of Black people at a time when they were viewed as lesser peoples in Canada. Many will note that Viola Desmond recently became the first woman of colour to be enshrined on any Canadian currency, however few know the battles that were led by Viola Desmond, to provide an equal opportunity for Black Canadians to acquire skills, enter trades and participate in social activities that were traditionally reserved for people who weren’t Black.

Produced by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, this short documentary tells the story of Viola Desmond’s famous act of resistance in a Nova Scotia Theatre.
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Portraiture from the Ernest Brown fonds

Editor’s note: In our continued recognition of Black History Month, the Provincial Archives of Alberta has shared a collection of portraits of Black Albertans from photographer Ernest Brown. The Ernest Brown fonds contain around 50,000 negatives and other materials, predominantly from the years 1880-1960.

One of the earliest professional photographers in Alberta, Ernest Brown moved to Edmonton from England in April 1904. In Edmonton, Brown went to work as an assistant to C.W. Mathers, the city’s first photographer. Three months later, Brown bought the rights to Mathers’ portrait studio and in 1905 the studio expanded into the Ernest Brown Company Ltd.

Little is known about the subjects in the photographs below. Likely, the only records kept from these photo sessions was the name of the person who booked and paid for the session.

Black History at the Provincial Archives of Alberta

Editor’s note: In our continuing recognition of Black History Month, RETROactive contributors from the Provincial Archives of Alberta highlight some of the resources available for researchers wanting to know more about the history of Alberta’s Black community.

Written by: Michael Gourlie, Government Records Archivist and Karen Simonson, Reference Archivist

Researching the history of Black communities in Alberta can be challenging.  Sources can be limited and potentially scattered among many institutions within Alberta’s heritage communities.  Much of the access is dependent on knowing a person’s name or having some additional background clues or information.  But the history of Alberta’s Black communities can be teased out of the records preserved by the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA), and all the resources described below are available for researchers to see and consult for themselves during regular opening hours of the reading room.

Unidentified woman with dog, ca. 1920 (Ernest Brown fonds, BP2-15552)

In addition to published books and newspapers providing context to the community, the PAA is fortunate to have received donations of records from private individuals such as Fil Fraser, Selwyn Jacob and Junetta Jamerson.  While these records can only tell part of the story, looking more closely at some familiar holdings at the PAA reveals perhaps some unexplored and unexpected traces of Alberta’s Black history.

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Canada Post commemorates an Alberta community for Black History Month

Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS, Geographical Names Program Coordinator

February is Black History Month, a time dedicated for the commemoration of the history, heritage and legacy of the Black community in Canada. Since 2009, Canada Post has produced a series of commemorative postage stamps recognizing aspects of Canada’s Black community. These stamps have featured individuals and communities as well as military contributions and sporting accomplishments. In 2012, John Ware, southern Alberta’s famous Black cowboy and rancher was featured.

These stamps – the 13th issue in Canada Post’ Black History Month series – tell the stories of two Black communities nearly one hundred years and thousands of kilometres apart. Both rose from hardship to survive and grow for a time and served as stepping stones for the success of future generations of Black Canadians. Source: Canada Post.

This year, Canada Post turned the spotlight once again to Alberta, this time producing a stamp recognizing the community of Amber Valley.  

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Lady Lougheed: Métis Matriarch

Editor’s note: This week, RETROactive is pleased to share another post written by historical researcher Matt Hiltermann, on behalf of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3. Matt recently wrote about the Métis of Rouleaville.

Written by: Matt Hiltermann

When Albertans hear the Lougheed name, they likely think of late premier Peter Lougheed. Others may may also be familiar with his grandfather, Sir James Alex Lougheed. Much less discussed, however, is the matriarch of the Lougheed family: Lady Isabella Clark Hardisty Lougheed.

To the extent that history has focused on rich, white men, this is unsurprising if disappointing. At the same time, Isabella was widely regarded as the driving force behind her husband.[1] She and her Hardisty kin also formed the nucleus of the Lougheed family.[2] All evidence seems to point to her being a binding force in both her family and the community at large. Who was this Métis matriarch, and how did she become the “First Lady of the Northwest?”[3]

Isabellla Lougheed, ca 1910s. Source: Glenbow Library and Archives.

Isabella Hardisty was born around 1861 at Fort Resolution in what is now the Northwest Territories.[4] Her father, William Lucas Hardisty, was one of only four Métis men to attain the rank of Chief Factor between 1851 and 1869.[5] Her mother was Mary Anne Allen, a Métisse of obscure origins.[6] Both of her parents’ families had intergenerational ties to the fur trade.[7]

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Renowned Alberta archaeologist receives Order of Canada

Written by: Jared Majeski, Historic Resources Management Branch

For his decades-long work as an archaeologist, curator and author helping to promote and preserve Blackfoot Culture, former Historic Resources Management Branch and Royal Alberta Museum staff member Jack Brink was recently named a member of the Order of Canada. He became part of this illustrious group along with a handful of other Albertans, including: Daniel Steadward, a lifelong Paralympic advocate; Dr. Lori West, who directed transplant immunology research at the U of A; and Art Bergmann, a prolific punk rock musician both as a solo artist and member of the legendary Young Canadians.

Blair First Rider, an Aboriginal Consultation Advisor with the Alberta government, worked with Jack for a number of years on, among other things, the cultural resource management file; this included work at Writing-on-Stone, Head-Smash-In Buffalo Jump and the Okotoks Erratic. In honour of Jack’s work with The Blackfoot Confederacy and Treaty 7, he was given the honourary Blackfoot name Owl Head.

“It’s kind of a bit of disbelief,” Jack Brink told Global News when asked how he felt when he heard the news. “You’re thinking… ‘What have I done to deserve this?’” Source: Office of the Governor General of Canada.

 “Jack has earned his name as a way of acknowledging his support and efforts of reconciliation, repatriation and preserving the archaeological record of the sacred sites and cultural resources we are entrusted with as stewards of the land,” First Rider explained.

Understanding and preserving Indigenous history and culture, in this era of reconciliation, is done in numerous ways. One way is through archaeology, a field Brink has worked in for much of his professional life. He mentions that through archaeology, we can begin to understand the great accomplishments Indigenous people who have lived in Alberta (and Canada) for thousands of years.

“I think when the general public learn more about the deep past of Indigenous people,” Brink said, “we  [can] make steps forward in terms of truth and reconciliation. The ‘past’ is a great part of the true story of Indigenous people on this continent. Most people are unaware of it, and as they learn more they come to respect the success of indigenous people surviving on this land under challenging conditions for such a long period of time. I believe that this builds an appreciation of what Indigenous people have accomplished and contributed.”

Former colleagues at the Royal Alberta Museum, where Jack worked for over 25 years, recall lessons learned from one the country’s preeminent archaeologist and curator. Assistant Archaeologist Bob Dawe mentioned that, “Jack is an excellent teacher and writer with enviable communication skills. The most beneficial enduring advice he taught me was how to be more succinct with writing and lecturing – cut to the chase rather than clutter scholarly publications and conference presentations with time wasting less relevant material. Other than this extremely helpful lesson, he didn’t belabor advice as much as lead by example.”

Acting Curator of Archaeology Kris Fedyniak worked with Brink on the ultimately successful bid for Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Through the numerous and lengthy United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization application bids, Jack taught me the importance of perseverance. A ‘no’ sometimes means you have to reset, reframe and try again.”

Recognition of a professional archaeologist at such a high level will hopefully inspire younger generations to not only recognize the important role archaeology and science play in our world, but to pursue a career in the field.

“I think recognition by the Governor General’s office is recognition of the power of archaeology to do good in this world,” Brink said, “to help reveal impressive stories about past cultures and to do so in a respectful way. I would hope that this would have a positive effect on young people who may be considering a career in archaeology; that it would make them aware that significant achievements can be made in the field of archaeology and that a great career can come from it.”

Congratulations Jack!

Sources:

Global News Edmonton

Governor General of Canada

Recent Municipal Historic Resource Designations

Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS, Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Under the Historical Resources Act, Alberta’s municipalities have the authority to designate sites and buildings as Municipal Historic Resources. This designation authority gives municipalities the ability to ensure that the preservation of their community’s history and heritage. Municipal Historic Resources are eligible for listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, although there is no requirement for municipally designated resources to be listed on the Register. However, designated resources must be listed on the Register to qualify for Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women’s conservation grants. To be listed on the Register, a Municipal Historic Resource must certain documentation prepared that explain the heritage value of the resource and guide the management of the property.

Historic Resources Management of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women works with Alberta’s municipalities to list their Municipal Historic Resource Designations. A number of properties designated in previous years by a municipalities across the province have recently been added to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

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Inside the Archives Vault: Where Winter’s a Pleasure

Editor’s note: With a couple weeks left in what felt like the longest year ever, this will be the last RETROactive post of 2020. Thank you to all our followers, visitors and everyone interested in Alberta’s diverse and unique history. Have a safe and happy holiday season, and we’ll see you all in 2021!

Written by: Sara King, Government Records Archivist, Provincial Archives of Alberta and Jared Majeski, Editor, RETROactive

Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, let us start to settle in for Christmas break with some vintage video of folks hitting the slopes.

“Where Winter’s a Pleasure” was a promotional film produced by the Film and Photograph Branch of the Department of Industry and Development in 1962 for the Alberta Travel Bureau. It features footage and narration from Hans Gmoser (1932-2006), a mountain guide and founder of Rocky Mountain Guides Ltd. (later Canadian Mountain Holidays CMH) who would tour throughout North America giving lectures and showing promotional films. He was awarded the order of Canada in 1987, among other honours. Starting before dawn for a four hour hike up a glacier to ski might seem a bit daunting for some, but you can always catch the gondola at Lake Louise if you’re less ambitious, and a trip to the Tom Tom Lounge at the end of the day can’t go wrong. Just don’t forget your mountain mixture.

New Occasional Paper Series from the Archaeological Survey of Alberta

The Archaeological Survey of Alberta is proud to release Occasional Paper Series No. 39, devoted to advancing archaeological practice in Western Canada. The volume contains seven articles written by archaeological consultants, university researchers, and heritage managers. The 2019 volume is dedicated to Terrance Gibson who passed away in 2018 and was a life-long advocate of improving archaeological research and practices.

The current and previous volumes can be downloaded for free here. Thank you to all the authors. If you are interested in contributing to the 2020 issue, please contact the Archaeological Survey of Alberta