The staff of the Historic Resources Management Branch wishes you a safe and joyous holiday season.
We’ve worked hard to identify, protect and conserve Alberta’s historic resources this past year. We’d like to thank the countless people throughout Alberta for helping us to do that. Without your support, conserving our historic places would be impossible.
RETROactive will be taking a break over the holidays — we will resume publishing on January 13th, 2014. We look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!
An archaeological resource in Alberta is defined as “a work of humans that is of value for its prehistoric, historic, cultural or scientific significance” and is protected under the Historical Resources Act. Sites are classed into two major groups: prehistoric and historic. Over 80% of the sites in the province are prehistoric (which predate the arrival of Europeans); just over 10% are historic (postdating European arrival); and the rest are a mix of both prehistoric and historic, contemporary, indigenous historic (such as Metis sites), and natural sites. Some of the most common prehistoric sites are campsites; stone features; animal kill sites; processing sites; rock art sites and ceremonial sites, such as medicine wheels and cairns. Historic sites include trading posts, police posts, early settlements, homesteads, and industrial sites.
Some of the oldest archaeological sites in Alberta date to as early as 13,000-8,000 years ago or what is known as the Palaeoindian Period. Prior to ~13,000 years ago what is now Alberta was covered by massive ice sheets that rendered the landscape uninhabitable. Shortly after the retreat of the ice sheets, however, animals and then people began moving into the area. At a site called Wally’s Beach in southern Alberta, archaeologists have recorded mammoth, camel and horse tracks. Not only that, they have discovered direct evidence of humans hunting these animals! Since then, what is now Alberta has been continuously occupied by numerous cultural groups, whose remnants we find in the form of discarded stone tools, butchered animal bones, hearths, broken pottery, buried palisade walls from forts and various other artifacts and features.
These days the majority of new archaeological sites in Alberta are recorded by historic resource management consultants. Consulting companies are hired by developers in the province to carry out Historical Resource Impact Assessments, which involve the survey and testing of areas that will be affected by a proposed development for the potential or presence of archaeological sites. If a consultant deems an area to be high potential (judged by factors such as landforms, proximity to water bodies, and proximity to known sites, among other things) he or she will conduct surface inspection and possibly shovel testing (digging a hole about 40 cm by 40 cm in size) to search for archaeological artifacts or features.
If results are positive, the information is submitted to the Archaeological Survey and a unique identifier, called a Borden number, is assigned to the site. The Archaeological Survey can then offer protection and management strategies for these sites. This could involve requirements for complete avoidance or excavation of the site prior to development. Archaeological site information is stored in the Alberta Archaeological Sites Inventory, an important resource for historic resource consultants and other researchers. Artifacts recovered from archaeological sites are stored at the Royal Alberta Museum where they are made accessible for research or put on display in one of their exhibits.
Alberta’s archaeology may not be as visible as in other parts of the world, but we really do have a rich heritage and an abundance of archaeological resources — we just have to work a little harder to find them. It’s incredible what we can learn when we start digging into our past!
Tell us, what’s your favourite archaeology site in Alberta?
Written by: Courtney Lakevold, Archaeological Information Coordinator.
“If you get the right angle to float on top of the pressure of the wind you get more distance.” (Clarence Sverold, Canadian Olympian)
The huge metal ski jump at the Stoney Creek Valley in Camrose is an impressive sight. It is the legacy of the daring Norwegian flyers who made Camrose the birth place of ski jumping in Alberta. Adolph and Lars Marland, P. Mikkelson and the Engbretonson brothers formed the Fram Ski Club there in 1911. It was named for the Fram, meaning “forward” in Norwegian, the ship that carried Roald Amundsen on his famous expedition to Antarctica.
The Fram Ski club began construction in the fall of 1911 on a fifty-foot scaffold tower with a long slide in the Stoney Creek valley. Anticipation mounted for the club’s first ski jump tournament held in January 1912. People came from miles around in sleighs and cutters and happily paid the 25 cents entry fee. Adolph Marland soared seventy-four feet through the air to be acclaimed the winner.
The Fram Ski Club soon had competition. Not to be outdone, Edmonton also formed a club in 1911, and built a bigger jump at Connor’s Hill for the 1912 season. Camrose hosted the first tournament between the two clubs on February 17th 1912. Edmonton’s John Hogan outdistanced the Camrose team with a jump of 87 feet. On the same day the Fram and Edmonton Ski Clubs formed the National Ski Association of Western Canada. Its purpose was to “to create, develop and sustain interest in the sport of ski running and ski jumping.” It set out the rules and scoring system for combining points for length of ski jump, landing, and aspects of style to determine the overall winner. The distance is still measured today from the edge of the take-off to where the jumper touches the landing slope below.
A week later the two clubs held a return competition at Connor’s Hill and John Hogan once again made the longest jump. “The spectator would gasp,” noted The Edmonton Journal, “as a skier came whizzing down the long wooden slide, hit the take off platform, doubled up like a jack-knife and then flew out into space, landing on both feet in the snow, and speeding down the hill.”
Although ski running, soon known as cross country skiing (or Nordic skiing) was becoming popular, it was ski jumping that captured the public’s imagination. In 1913 over 5,000 spectators watched John Hogan set a new Canadian record with a jump of 109 feet at Connors Hill. It was a major event attended by the Lieutenant Governor Bulyea, Mayor McNamara, and the Norwegian consul.
The ski clubs often had to repair or replace the first ski jumps because they were generally built from wood and deteriorated quickly. Although the Connor’s Hill jump survived the 1915 flood on the Saskatchewan River, it gradually weakened. Finally deemed unsafe by the City, it was dismantled in 1926. The Edmonton Ski Club rebuilt it in 1935. When the first jump at Camrose blew down, it was replaced in 1924. This in turn was replaced by a third one in 1930, in time for the western Canadian Championships in 1932.
The Camrose Ski Club Club, as the Fram became known, remained at the heart of ski jumping in Alberta through the 1950s. The Servold brothers, Clarence and Irwin, who represented Canada at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, continued the tradition of those early Camrose jumpers who mentored them. Nevertheless, despite club ski jumps at Devon and Athabasca, ski jumping fell somewhat out of vogue during the 1960s. The Camrose ski jump was taken down, and Edmonton’s last ski jumping tournament was held on Connor’s Hill in 1975, although the jump remained as a city landmark until 1978.
As a spectator sport ski jumping had less appeal than alpine competition through the 1970s. There was a resurgence of interest during the 1980s when a large concrete ski jump took shape at Calgary Olympic Park as the city prepared to host the Olympic Winter Games in 1988. Clarence Sverold designed a new ski jump constructed from welded pipes with a wooden slide surface for the Alberta Winter Games held in Camrose in1990. Because athletes’ ability and equipment has advanced so much, longer landing lanes are needed than in 1990. The Camrose jump does not meet current standards and is no longer used. The largest jump at Canada Olympic Park is no longer used for the same reason. The national ski jumping team still trains on the smaller ski jumps.
Today, the International Ski Federation holds events in three types of ski jump competitions: normal hill, large hill and ski flying hill on which incrementally longer distances have been achieved. The current Ski Flying World Record of 246.5 metres (809 feet) was set by Johan Remen Evensen of Norway in 2011—well over ten times the distance flown a hundred years earlier by Adolph Marland of Camrose.
The Aboriginal Heritage Section works with Aboriginal communities to help preserve and protect traditional use sites of a historical nature. Traditional use sites may include historic cabins, campsites, burials, plant or mineral harvesting areas, as well as ceremonial or spiritual sites. Well-known Provincial Historic Resources such as the Viking Ribstones Archaeological Site or Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump also have present-day significance to some Aboriginal communities.
Traditional use sites, along with archaeological, palaeontological and historic structures, are recorded in the Listing of Historic Resources—a regularly-updated database intended as a tool for developers to determine if lands contain or have high potential to contain historic resources.
Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of traditional use sites, the Listing identifies a 360-acre buffer area around each recorded feature, rather than providing the exact site location. This ensures that our team learns of any proposed development which may potentially impact known sites and can therefore provide further direction to the developer. Under the Historical Resources Act, we can order a developer to avoid a known traditional use site, or consult with the affected First Nation on ways to mitigate the damage.
The Historical Resources Management Branch strives to build relationships with the Aboriginal communities in Alberta and that’s the bulk of what I do. The Aboriginal Heritage Section works hard to balance our regulatory responsibilities with outreach efforts and field work (which is the fun parts!). Our role in the branch is really to provide a service and a tool for First Nations in the protection of their cultural sites. We meet with communities to explain how the Listing works and how the inclusion of their traditional use sites could protect them. We field-verify known sites with community representatives to ensure information and locations are accurate. We engage with various communities to ensure that Aboriginal perspectives are incorporated into the interpretation of Alberta’s historic resources. My colleagues and I fight over who gets to take the blue jeep versus who gets to take the red jeep into the field. This is our ‘daily grind’—and we love it.
For me, the joy in this job is recognizing that traditional use sites can be both ancient and contemporary—they can be locations or sites that are actively used today, just as they have been for thousands of years. It is remarkable to visit a medicine wheel that dates back thousands of years and see new blankets and offerings placed at it. Helping to protect these places, so that these practices can continue, is something the Aboriginal Heritage Section is very happy to do.
Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisor.
Polo became the passion of the ranchers who worked the extensive corporate grazing leases in southwestern foothills of the Rockies by the late 1880s and quickly developed into a sport of daring horsemanship and exploits. Polo Clubs were initially organized by the wealthy owners and managers of the large ranches, former mounted police officers, and remittance men from well-to do landed families in Britain and Ireland. Recreational polo blurred social boundaries. These socially upper class men played on teams alongside small ranch operators, cowboys, and farmer-settlers, and even store clerks. In a time when everyone rode and in a place where ranchers bred thousands of potential mounts, polo offered social and business connections as well as thrills (and spills) for rider and spectators alike.
Polo had ancient origins in Persia. It had only come to the British Isles, via its colonial connection with India in the 1870s. Popular among British military officers, it became an organized sport. A small number of early ranchers in the foothills had some experience or had seen the game before coming to Canada. One of those who participated in informal pickup games in the 1880s was Captain E.M. Wilmot of Chinook Ranch, credited with founding the first polo club at Pincher Creek in 1889.
Mostly, it seems, Alberta’s players found time to learn the rules, then adapted and honed their range land skills to the game played on hay meadows. Alberta’s tough agile little cow ponies, accustomed to herding cattle in quick response to commands, made steadfast partners. As the Fort MacLeod Gazette noted in 1892, “the qualities that go to make a good polo player—dashing horsemanship, courage, quickness and sureness of eye, and strength of wrist and arm, are those which are especially dear to the western heart.”
Overall polo is played in a way reminiscent of hockey. On a 300 yard long ten acre field, mounted competitors, four to a side, galloped up and down using mallets to drive a ball into the opponents’ goal. Polo is a positional game: a designated player number four, or back, plays defense, a designated number one player plays well ahead, and numbers two and three play mid-field. The ponies had to gallop hard: each rested after one or two seven and ½ minute periods called a “chukker.” The player could change ponies several times during a game. The ponies made hard contact shoulder to-shoulder as players attempt to “ride-off” their opponents and take control of the ball.
Two mounted referees, and a third on the sidelines, enforced the rules that mainly pertain to riding infractions and dangerous maneuvers that interfere with flow of the game or can lead to violent collisions. The ball kept in continuous play so the excitement was non-stop during the four, and later six, chukkers that made a game.
The first polo games were played between teams formed within each club, but polo tournaments caught on quickly. Fort McLeod organized the first tournament in June 1892. Four club teams, Calgary, Fort McLeod, Pincher Creek and High River, competed for a cup donated by Colonel James McLeod, former Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police. The Calgary Challenge Cup, presented at the first Calgary tournament in September 1892, has been in continuous play since. The same year a team travelled from Calgary to challenge polo players on the west coast, bringing their ponies described by a Victoria newspaper as “strong close-knit little brutes.”
Organizing and attending tournaments took work: ponies had to be ridden to the rail line, loaded in a box car, and feed arranged. Club finances and skilled teams were sustained by wealthy enthusiasts. Within a few years clubs formed at Cochrane, De Winton, Fish Creek, Millarville, High River, Peisko at the Bar U Ranche, Cowley, and Pine Creek.
As the twentieth century began club rivalry intensified. New trophies, including the Sheep Creek Challenge Cup (awarded to the winner of the annual Millarville tournament beginning in 1903) and the Fish Creek Challenge Cup (first awarded in 1906), were sought after. Most clubs had enough riders to mount several teams. For club play team configurations shifted constantly as senior and junior levels or A and B teams formed, while the best teams played at tournaments. The club allegiance of expert players became uncertain: they moved club as it suited them. A professional aspect became apparent; individuals and teams from Alberta played at tournaments across Canada and were popular at the Coronado Polo Club near San Diego.
It seemed that everyone was passionate about polo and polo players. Games were avidly followed by the press and tournaments were family outings. High River and Calgary hosted dinner dances after tournaments that were major society events. In 1903 a hundred guests attended Calgary’s polo ball. In June 1905 the town of High River shut down and everyone set out to the polo grounds about a mile from town for the day as the Calgary team arrived on the train accompanied by 100 supporters. Polo hit its high as a spectator sport at the Calgary Exhibition of 1907 where 20,000 people watched a game.
Seven years later the flame was extinguished. Polo teams fell apart in Alberta as war took many players to the European front. After World War I the great ranching communities declined and the heyday of the horse drew to a close. Attempts to revive the game with fewer polo teams were on-going and women took up and promoted the game during the 1920s. The downturn of the 1930s and World War II, however, resulted in the Calgary Polo Club being the only club surviving by 1945. The days of the ranch cow pony doubling as polo pony were long over. As polo slowly revived during the 1950s, it was evident that horses and polo playing had become the preserve of the well-to-do. J.B. Cross, son of A. E. Cross (a founding member of the Calgary Polo Club and grandson of Colonel James McLeod), provided new grounds for the Calgary Polo Club east of the Millarville in 1960. From the late 1970s the Fish Creek Challenge Cup was back in play after a decades-long hiatus.
Today, the Calgary Polo Club covers about 300 acres with nine playing fields, about a dozen professional players and numerous amateurs call it home. Two other clubs in Alberta are active, Grande Prairie Polo Club, an established club prior to World War I, and Black Diamond Polo Club founded in 1999. The traditions and rules of play for polo have remained constant in Alberta. From June through early September club matches, local, and interprovincial tournaments are open for spectators to enjoy one of Alberta’s earliest sports.
It was a blustery day for a Main Street Coordinator’s meeting but thanks to the magic of Skype we were able to be together in the same room – either physically or digitally – last Thursday in Old Strathcona.
Our friends in Lethbridge, Olds, Wainwright and Camrose joined in online while the Main Street Coordinator’s updated each other on what they have been up to since our last meeting. Everyone seems to be gearing up for a promotion or event to usher in the holiday season.
Our guest speaker for the day was Donna Poon with Visitor Friendly Alberta. The Visitor Friendly program assists communities with increasing their tourist attraction by providing an assessment of the tourist experience and recommendations for how a community may become more “visitor friendly”. The program evaluation is built around five key areas: ambiance and visual appeal; wayfinding and signage; quality of service and professionalism; public services and amenities and; visitor information.
Two of the Alberta Main Street communities, the Town of Olds and the City of Camrose, have completed the Visitor Friendly program and are currently working towards implementing the recommendations of the program. Priority projects include improving wayfinding, data collection and promotion/marketing of the Main Street story.
Donna suggested tackling a few ‘quick win’ projects to build momentum in the local community. The outcomes of the successful implementation of the program often include an increase in resident pride, a positive reputation of the community more broadly and, perhaps most importantly, repeat visitation by tourists to the community.
Visitor Friendly Alberta can be undertaken as either a self-directed project or as a facilitated project led by a qualified consultant. For more information on the program or to learn how to apply, please contact the program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer