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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National Indigenous Peoples Day 2022: recognition through place names

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research and Designation Program

Place names are an integral part of cultural heritage. In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Geographical names Board of Canada has released a dataset of Indigenous place names. The dataset contains about 20,000 names confirmed or reasonably believed to be of Indigenous origin, First Nations, Inuit or Métis. The names have been pulled from the Canadian Geographical Names Database, which is populated with toponymic information from the provincial and territorial naming authorities.

The dataset can be viewed online and is also available with other accompanying documentation from the Government of Canada’s Open Government portal. It can be downloaded in CSV, KML and SHP formats as well as a Web Map Service. Toponomy is an ever changing field with new names being adopted and new knowledge of existing names being discovered. Moving forward, the dataset will be updated weekly to capture these additions and changes. The dataset is freely accessible, but is subject to the Government of Canada’s Open Government License. 

Screenshot of the Indigenous Place Names Dataset web viewer. Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2022.
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New discoveries of ancient sites in the boreal forest

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Regional Archaeologist

Recent archaeological discoveries in Alberta’s Boreal Forest are confirming the antiquity of Indigenous occupation of this place and refining ideas of how pre-contact people adapted to landscapes. Two fresh articles in the most recent issue of the Archaeological Survey of Alberta’s Occasional Paper Series explore ancient sites found in northwest Alberta.

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Archaeology and modern forestry in Alberta

Editor’s note: This blog post is derived from a recent paper published in the Archaeological Survey of Alberta’s Occasional Paper Series titled: Forestry and archaeology in Alberta: A history and synthesis written by Bereziuk et al. The second paper in this issue was also recently released and is titled: Dated ground stone artifacts from Tse’K’wa (HbRf-39), Peace River region, British Columbia.  

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Regional Archaeologist

Most archaeology in Alberta happens in advance of industry development when consultants are hired to ensure that archaeological sites are avoided or excavated prior to ground disturbance. For the last decade, about half of the new sites recorded in Alberta are found during forestry programs when consultants look for archaeological material in advance of tree harvesting and logging road construction. The contribution that forestry-based archaeology makes in Alberta is large.

Why do forestry operators have to hire archaeological consultants? 

Industry developers are generally required by law, through the Historical Resources Act, to submit development plans to the Archaeological Survey of Alberta, who then reviews the footprints for overlaps with known archaeological sites or areas with potential for archaeological material. Forestry is one of Alberta’s largest industries in terms of spatial area: about 87,000 hectares are harvested each year and over 2 million hectares have been commercially logged in Alberta since 1990. Archaeological sites in harvest areas can be disturbed during road construction, during logging (by heavy machinery that cuts trees or transports them), and by site preparation practices that relate to reforestation.

In many areas in Alberta, the ground is intentionally disturbed after harvest to encourage regrowth of desired seedlings: about 18,000 hectares of land in Alberta are annually subjected to mechanical site preparation by forestry operators. Archaeological sites in Alberta’s Boreal Forest are often quite shallow (within 30 cm from the surface) meaning that forestry can have large impacts on the province’s preserved heritage. In the big picture, the vast majority of Alberta’s forests and all archaeological material in the province are public resources. For these reasons, forestry operators are responsible for detecting and avoiding archaeological sites during development.   

Alberta’s forested ecoregions (data from Alberta Parks 2005). The Parkland is not a commercially harvestable forest type. South of the Parkland is Alberta’s Prairie ecoregion. Source: Todd Kristensen.
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Listing of Historic Resources- Spring 2022 Update

Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey

From the Alberta government’s Historic Resources Management Branch, the Spring 2022 edition of the Listing of Historic Resources is now available. The Listing is a geospatial product showing lands that are known to contain or likely to contain historic resources (i.e. archaeological sites, historic sites, palaeontological sites, Indigenous heritage sites) in Alberta. The Listing is designed to be used by developers, land agents and other professionals in the cultural resources professional sphere. Publishing the Listing allows us to more quickly communicate concerns about historic resources on the landscape, while also protecting some of the confidentiality of historic resource sites. Even though the Listing is targeted for professionals, anyone can access it. A new edition of the Listing each year in the spring and fall.

CategoryDescription
aarchaeological
ccultural
glgeological
hhistoric
nnatural
ppalaeontological
Categories used in notations in the Listing of Historic Resources.
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The Archaeological Survey in Numbers – 2020 Update Part Two

Written By: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey

This week’s post is an update on archaeological sites recorded in 2020 as part of the Archaeological Survey’s permit management program. Part One of this post discussed archaeological permits, archaeologists and companies, and archaeological field activities. This week’s post highlights information about archaeological sites recorded during field work under archaeological permit activities.

In Alberta, archaeological sites have been protected since the 1970s under what is now the Historical Resources Act as, “a work of humans that is of value for its prehistoric, historic, cultural or scientific significance.” One would not need to look far to see that Alberta has amazing archaeology, ranging at least 13,000 years, at sites like Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi, Head-Smashed-In and other buffalo jumps, Wally’s Beach age megafauna, and many other amazing sites. Over 40,000 sites have been recorded in Alberta, and archaeologists record 500-700 new sites per year.

The majority of new sites today are recorded by archaeologists working with developers to avoid potential impacts to known or potential archaeological resources in a Historic Resources Impact Assessment. Any sites they might record are reported to the Archaeological Survey and added to the Archaeological Site Inventory, which is available to archaeological researchers and consultants. Sites are also recorded by researchers working at universities, museums, societies and other institutions. Researchers usually record fewer sites overall, and revisit the same sites year-to-year to continue detailed research.

You can explore previous Survey in Numbers to compare statistics year over year.

Garden of the gods: Áísínai’pi on the Great Plains

Editor’s note: Special thanks to Aaron Domes (Alberta Parks), Jack Brink (retired Curator of Archaeology at the Royal Alberta Museum) and Martin Heavy Head (Elder and cultural leader of the Kainai) for their input and review of this article.

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta and Terra Lekach, freelance archaeologist and artist

A muddy ribbon of water flows through southern Alberta on its way to the Missouri. Along the Milk River lies 3,000 years of beliefs etched and painted as rock art on sandstone walls. An 18 km stretch of the river meanders through 149 archaeological sites displaying several thousand individual rock art images. The art documents millennia of spiritual connections to a sacred landscape and centuries of cultural change during European settlement on the Great Plains.

Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi UNESCO World Heritage Site is on the Milk River in southern Alberta. Image created by Todd Kristensen.
Over 60 per cent of rock art in Alberta is found in Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi and over 8 per cent of Indigenous rock art in Canada is found along this small stretch of the Milk River. Image created by Todd Kristensen, with input from 13 heritage managers across Canada.
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Intersections and Intertwinings: Understanding the Métis Sash

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Indigenous Heritage Section

Editor’s note: November 14-20 is Métis Week, the annual invitation to remember the leadership, advocacy, sacrifice and legacy of Louis Riel, and to celebrate the continued achievements of Métis peoples across their homelands.

RETROactive readers will already be familiar with Matt Hiltermann for his extensively researched accounts of the Métis presence in southern Alberta. Did you know he is also a skilled fingerweaver and sashmaker? With Matt’s help, writer Laura Golebiowski dives into the historical roots and evolving cultural significance of the Métis sash. Note: banner image above courtesy of Travel Alberta.

Métis public historian Matt Hiltermann is the first to note the origins of the Métis sash are convoluted and obscure. Though several cultures produced woven textiles, the sash’s beginnings are understood to lie with the traditional weaving practices of eastern woodland First Nations, combined—quite literally—with woolen goods introduced by early French visitors. The coming together of these two cultures and crafts produced a unique item truly of its time and place. “It couldn’t have happened any other way or anywhere else.”

With practical beginnings, the sash likely served numerous functions, including a rope, tumpline (a carrying strap worn across the head), pocket, tourniquet, emergency sewing kit or belt. The earliest designs were that of the double-chevron or arrowhead. The Assomption sash, or ceinture fléchée (“arrow belt”), proliferated with the fur trade and made its way to west. Varying colours and designs were used to signify rank, status and trading allegiances or employment.

“A gentleman travelling in a dog cariole in Hudson’s Bay with an Indian guide,” 1825. Source: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-1052.2 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana. Although not explicitly identified as such (typical of exclusionary practices of the time), the middle individual driving the cariole and wearing a traditional capote, leggings and sash is very likely Métis.
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The Archaeological Survey in Numbers – 2020 Update Part One

Written By: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey

This week’s post is an update on the Archaeological Survey’s permit management program from 2020. In Alberta, as elsewhere in Canada, archaeological sites are protected and managed through legislation, as archaeological sites and artifacts are thought to be of value to Albertans. Most of the work archaeological permits since the 1970s have been issued to professionals, or consultants, working in the cultural resources management (CRM) field.

Consultants in this field work with developers and the Archaeological Survey to ensure that proposed developments, such as subdivisions, well sites, waterlines, etc., will not impact known or potential archaeological sites. This work is crucial to ensure that Alberta’s development industries can continue while also avoiding impact to archaeological resources, which are non-renewable and best left in the ground. Since the permit management system was legislated in the 1970’s, CRM consultants have recorded tens of thousands of archaeological sites in all areas of Alberta and made immeasurable contributions to the stories and knowledge of Alberta’s past.

This infographic looks at some of the details of Alberta’s permit management program- How many permits are we issuing? How many are CRM (mitigative?) Where are the permit projects this year in the province? What types of research activities are archaeologists carrying out under their permits? Please stay tuned for Part Two of this infographic, which will look at archaeological sites recorded in 2020.

You can explore previous Survey in Numbers to compare statistics year over year.