Historic Burial near Viking, Alberta: A story of excavation, ceremony and community

In late August 2015, Brian Rozmahel, a farmer near the Town of Viking, was working in one of his fields. He recently experienced problems with gophers causing damage to his crops and decided to set up several traps as a preventative measure. One morning he went out to check the traps he set the day before and discovered something he was not expecting to find. A badger got to the site overnight and dug into the gopher burrows. Quite a bit of earth was brought up through the badger’s digging. However, there was more than just earth that was surfaced by the badger. Resting on the ground near the burrows were human remains and other items such as buttons and beads.

When Brian encountered the remains he immediately contacted the Viking Detachment of the RCMP. The RCMP cordoned off the site and did an initial investigation of the area. In the meantime, the exposed human remains were sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) for further analysis.

In consultation with forensic anthropologist, Pamela Mayne-Correia, the OCME concluded that the human remains were historic in nature and were likely of a young Aboriginal individual. The RCMP deemed the situation to not be criminal and the Historic Resources Management Branch (HRMB) was then contacted by the OCME. As the remains were considered historic, the HRMB now had jurisdiction over the site. Read more

She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes

Her hair is Harlowe gold
Her lips sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She’s got Bette Davis eyes
(from Bette Davis Eyes; Kim Carnes, 1981)


Everyone says my mother (Marina Lynch-Staunton) has Bette Davis eyes. Perhaps she used them, back in 1955, to catch the judges’ eyes. That’s when Marina was crowned Queen at the Crow’s Nest Pass Winter Carnival.

The tale of Marina’s crowning achievement has an unlikely beginning.

Picture this: a grassy hillside overlooking the Oldman River. There, a hop, skip and jump east of The Gap—the water gap through which the Oldman River cuts through the Livingstone Range—a farm tractor was used to power a rope tow that pulled skiing enthusiasts from the surrounding ranching community to the top of “Mount Pleasant,” a modest climb from the Oldman’s storied shores.

It was here that the Maycroft Ski Club was born. Read more

Romanian Settlement in Alberta

One of the latest additions to the Provincial Heritage Marker collection details the history of Romanian settlement in Alberta, starting with the first Romanian pioneers to settle in the province in 1898, Ikum Yurko and Elie Ravliuk. The earliest Romanian settlements in Alberta were concentrated in the east-central part of the province, where communities such as Boian flourished in the early twentieth century. New Romanian-Albertan communities emerged in the late 1920s as the children of the first generation began to move to other parts of the province in search of land and new opportunities. By the 1950s the province’s Romanian population was predominantly Canadian-born, but Romanian culture, traditions and language still flourished in Alberta.

New Heritage Marker installed in June 2015 on Highway 45 east of Willingdon.
New Heritage Marker installed in June 2015 on Highway 45 east of Willingdon.

The marker was installed on Highway 45 east of Willingdon in June 2015. The Provincial Heritage Marker Program promotes greater awareness of the provincially-significant people, places, events and themes that have defined the history and character of our province. Topics relevant to the history of immigration, settlement and ethnic history has been an important part of the program since it was first launched in 1955. The public plays an important role in the program, and we welcome applications from groups or individuals who want to propose topics and locations for future markers, including our popular urban/trail-sized markers, suitable for placement in towns, parks, and other locations with pedestrian traffic. For more information about the program, please visit our website.

Written By: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer

Christmas at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

Photo Credit: Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
An employee at the UCHV holding a Didukh (sheaf of grain). Photo Credit: Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a major open-air museum operated by the Historic Sites and Museums Branch of Alberta Culture and Tourism. Located 50 km east of Edmonton the museum preserves more than 30 historic structures and interprets the lives of Ukrainian settlers in east central Alberta between the years of 1892 and 1930. Based on extensive contextual and site specific research, the museum is an important steward of the intangible cultural heritage of Alberta’s Ukrainian settlers.

Among the customs which the Village documents and observes is Christmas. As Byzantine Eastern rite Orthodox and Catholic Christians, Ukrainians celebrated Christmas according to the Julian calendar, which predated the introduction of the current Gregorian calendar. What is popularly referred to as “Ukrainian Christmas” is celebrated on January 7 rather than December 25. On January 6, Ukrainians celebrate Sviat Vechir (or Holy Evening, Christmas Eve) with a special meal. For the early Ukrainian settlers of east central Alberta as well as their descendants in urban settings, this was an evening filled with ritual and tradition, including pre-Christian agrarian elements.

Christmas Eve meal, January 5, 1949. Photo: Eric Bland, from City of Edmonton Archives.
Christmas Eve meal, January 1949. Photo: Eric Bland. From City of Edmonton Archives, EA-600-1885g.

The evening meal on Sviat Vechir would begin when the children in the family spotted the first star in the night sky. After it was spotted, the family assembled around the table and shared a prayer or carol. The patriarch of the family then brought the first of 12 Lenten dishes to the table. This dish is Read more