Borealopelta: A Selective Herbivore

Editor’s note: Alberta’s rich fossil history, including the field of palaeontology, is recognized around the world. RETROactive is now pleased to be sharing stories of discovery from the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

The banner illustration above is courtesy of Julius Csotonyi.

The nodosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli is the world’s best-preserved armoured dinosaur. This amazing specimen has helped answer many important questions about dinosaur biology and behaviour. Now, new research supports the theory that the nodosaur was a picky eater.

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Alberta’s heritage places need your voice

Alberta is known for its abundant heritage places, from traditional cultural sites to architectural heritage to the heritage values enshrined in our cultural and natural landscapes. 

With this in mind, a project has been started to examine the creation of an inclusive provincial network for Alberta’s heritage places and to consider the re-establishment of regular Alberta forums for historic places, cultural landscapes, built heritage and related concerns. Such a network and forum could create an environment where individuals can come together as peers to share knowledge relevant to each other’s work while providing mutual support when needed. This style of collaboration could achieve far more than any single entity could accomplish alone.

Through this initiative, the committee aims to ensure that Alberta protects and preserves its heritage resources for future generations. Your feedback is essential to understanding the initiative’s viability and the heritage communities’ greater needs. Please help the committee by completing their survey.  The survey will only be open a limited time – from January 4 to January 18 – so please follow the link today.

Season’s Greetings from RETROactive

On behalf of the staff and contributors to RETROactive, we wish you and your family the happiest (and warmest) of holidays. Thank you once again for your support and interest in the stories, people and places from Alberta’s past and present. We will see you all in 2023 with more captivating stories exploring Alberta’s history.

Source: Robert C. Fitzsimmons fonds, Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Alberta and the Clovis connection

Editor’s note: The banner image above courtesy of the Norman Petty Recording Studio.

Written by: Jeremy Witten

If you read a cultural history of 1960s Alberta or if you read a cultural history of the people who lived here 13,000 years ago, there is an unusual word you might come across in both contexts: “Clovis.” Between 1962 and 1974, several Albertan bands drove to a small town in New Mexico called Clovis to record with a famous producer who lived there. His name was Norman Petty and prior to recording bands from Alberta, he recorded international stars like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. But that town in New Mexico has a deeper connection to the land that people now call Alberta.

A Clovis point found in Alberta that is made from Knife River Flint, a type of stone found in North Dakota. Source: Royal Alberta Museum.

Clovis, New Mexico shares the name of the Clovis people, a prehistoric Indigenous group whose artifacts continue to be found not only in New Mexico, but also scattered across Alberta. The archetypical technology of the Clovis people is called a “Clovis point,” which was a finely crafted stone tip that was attached to a wooden shaft to form a highly effective weapon. Interestingly, if one maps the trip that Albertan bands took to Clovis in the 1960s, that route intersects with several important archaeological sites where Clovis points have been found. Despite this, it’s entirely possible those Albertan musicians were unaware of the prehistoric connection between Clovis and the land where they lived as they continued their drive south through forests, plains and deserts.

Who were these Albertan bands? There were at least two dozen of them: Calgary-based acts who recorded in Clovis included Done On Bradstreet, Eddie Canada, Gainsborough Gallery, Jim Aiello, Molly, Sheraton Fountain and the Happy Feeling. The list of Edmonton acts to record with Norman Petty is a bit longer, including Barry Allen, Colored Rain, Dennis Paul, Doug Roberts, Famous Last Words, Happy Cooker, Privilege, Shame Tree, Southbound Freeway, Stu Mitchell, the Brinkman Brothers, the Nomads, the Preachers, Victory Group, Vik Armen, Wes Dakus & the Rebels and Willie & the Walkers.

Several of these bands changed line-ups and even names over time; the Rebels were once known as the Club 93 Rebels. Southbound Freeway and the Happy Feeling also released music under the more concise monikers “Freeway” and “The Feeling.” In the liner notes of the compilation album From Canada to Clovis, Canadian producer and discographer Shawn Nagy shares historical details of some of these recording sessions. Nagy writes that only three members of the Nomads made the initial drive to Clovis in May 1962 and that they drove down in a jam-packed 1955 Buick. Back then, the option for Albertan bands, “was to travel 2,200 miles to Quality Studios in Toronto or 1,750 miles to Clovis.”

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Métis Week 2022

Métis Week celebrates the culture, history and contributions of Métis people to Alberta and Canada. On November 16, Métis people across Canada pay tribute to the Right Honourable Louis Riel by holding a commemorative ceremony on the date of his execution. In addition to recognizing Louis Riel Day on November 16, this week has been declared “Métis Week” by the Métis Nation of Alberta. The week is devoted to commemorating the sacrifices of the Métis and to celebrate Métis contributions to Alberta’s history and Métis culture in general. Many places in Alberta have a unique Métis history, and we encourage you to learn these stories and celebrate with the Métis peoples during this time. Below are some suggestions for online offerings and events taking place.

If you have an event to commemorate Métis Week 2022, let us know and we will look to add it to the list above.

Pilots North: Alberta and IMAX Dome film history

Written by: Jeremy Witten

The importance of American filmmaker Roger Tilton in the history of IMAX Dome cinema is well documented, but his unique connection to Alberta and Albertan film history is less well-known.

In 1973, the San Diego Hall of Science premiered the world’s first IMAX Dome film Garden Isle, directed by Tilton. By this time, IMAX film had already existed for more than five years, but the concept of projecting that film onto a dome screen was new and it was in this arena that Roger Tilton was an innovator. Eight years later, Tilton traveled to Alberta with a vision for another dome film: Canadian bush pilots flying their planes to remote northern communities during the 1920s and 1930s. Since Edmonton was historically considered the “Gateway to the North,” Tilton wanted some of the film shot in the Edmonton area, with other scenes shot in northern Alberta and Northwest Territories. Albertan filming sites included St. Albert, Peace River and Fort Vermillion. The resulting film, Pilots North, premiered at Edmonton’s Klondike Days Exhibition in 1981.

Roger Tilton (left) on the Pilots North set in 1981. Source: Wilma Kuipers.
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Buried treasure: panning for gold in Edmonton’s river valley

Editor’s note: The banner image above is courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Written by: Brandon Nadeau, Security Supervisor and Melissa Bowerman, Assistant Curator, Geology

Most people think the only link between Edmonton and gold is the fact that it was situated on one of the routes to the historic Klondike Gold Rush. But Edmonton has its own direct claim to gold with its own gold rush that predates the Klondike. To this day, many people continue the search for gold in the North Saskatchewan River valley.

Gold is found either as lode gold within solid rock or as placer gold which has been eroded and moved by water and deposited in sands and gravels. In Edmonton, gold is often found in tiny flakes less than half a millimetre across known as flour gold. Flakes of platinum are also present in the placer deposits along the North Saskatchewan River, though in smaller amounts relative to gold.

Washing gold circa 1890. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta.
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Kīcēyitākosiwak Awāsisak – Every Child is Sacred

Today across Canada, we are collectively recognizing the legacy of the Residential School system through the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  In Alberta, many events are taking place to commemorate the Residential School experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. 

Also known as Orange Shirt Day, September 30 is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. As spokesperson for the reunion group, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.  The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led grassroots movement, carries a very important message that we all recognize: that every child matters.

 To learn more about The Orange Shirt Society at orangeshirtday.org.

We Albertans can make special efforts to acknowledge the histories and legacies of residential schools, and to honour the survivors, their families and communities.

The Alberta government recognizes the significance of this day as well. There are a number of programs and services that can help you learn about residential school sites.

You can also learn more about residential schools in Alberta by visiting the National Centre for Truth Reconciliation.

And finally, here’s a list of local events:

Edmonton

University of Alberta

St. Albert

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Lethbridge

University of Lethbridge

Calgary

University of Calgary

A Protected Place: The Grotto Creek Canyon Pictographs and respectful visitation on sacred landscapes

Written by: Travis Rider (Stoney Nakoda Nations) and Laura Golebiowski (Indigenous Heritage Section)

The Stoney people have called the Rocky Mountains home since time immemorial. We are often referred to as Îyâhre Wîchastabi, meaning people of the Rocky Mountains or the people in the shimmering mountains. Today we are known as the Stoney/Assiniboine People. We are linguistically related to the woodland and plains Nakoda speakers and a part of the Great Sioux Nation. 

Stoney men in front of Mînî Hrpa (Cascade Mountain), ca 1901. Hector Crawler, Travis Rider’s great-great-great grandfather, is second from the left. Source: Peter and Catharine Whyte Fonds, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

I am a Stoney Nation member and language-keeper. I grew up with the teachings, language and traditions of my mother, father, grandmothers and great-grandfathers. I did not speak English until I began school, and today I facilitate in addictions and mental health, incorporating the language. I was also part of the Stoney Education Authority’s dictionary initiative, working with Elders, linguists and community members to build a database of vocabulary and develop resources for the promotion of the Stoney language for future generations.

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Dogs and horses through Alberta’s history

Editor’s note: The banner image about was reproduced with the permission of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Sled dogs were critical for moving goods in northern Alberta, like this dog team outside a trade post in the Fort McMurray area in 1911.

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta

Domestic dogs have likely been in Alberta for least 5,000 years and some researchers think they arrived with the first humans in North America over 13,000 years ago. What role did they play in Indigenous life? And how did that role change when horses arrived in the 1700s?

Based on archaeological records and historic accounts, people on the prairies of southern Alberta likely had about 4-6 dogs per family. These pets could transport about 90-270 kg of goods using a travois (a series of poles attached to a dog’s back) or pack saddles. Dogs helped move tipi hides and poles (up to 100 kg per tipi) as well as dried meat and tools from camp to camp. Before Europeans arrived, Plains communities packed up and moved all of their belongings about 10-40 times a year, which helped them stay in contact with moving bison herds that were the main source of food and materials. Trains of several hundred pack dogs carried goods on trading expeditions.

A comparison of horse and dog characteristics that influenced their relationships with people in Alberta. Illustration by Terra Lekach.
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