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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Stories of discovery: life under the sea

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1997: Nichollsemys baieri (TMP 1997.099.0001)

Holotype skull of Nichollsemys baieri. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Life in southeastern Alberta was exciting for Ron Baier and his brother growing up near Taber. They enjoyed exploring the land and searching for rocks and fossils. Development of irrigation lines unearthed many interesting artifacts, including arrowheads. As the development slowed, Ron started branching out to new areas in search of artifacts and fossils.

Ron Baier with his fossil collection, including the skull of Nichollsemys. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
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From Belize to Bezanson: Synergistic research in northwestern Alberta

Editor’s note: All images below courtesy of the authors.

Written by: Shawn Morton, Northwestern Polytechnic and Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown, Athabasca University

Our careers as archaeologists have been dominated by research on ancient Maya peoples and places, particularly of the Classic Period (ca. 250-900 CE). Since beginning the community-engaged Stann Creek Regional Archaeology Project in 2014, our activities have focused on characterizing and explaining the settling and eventual abandonment of a relatively short-lived ancient townsite in Belize.

When urban centres expand rapidly in response to resource development, “instant cities” arise. These remarkable settlements are also called “boomtowns” or “rapid-growth communities”. They typically emerge in what are perceived as severely disadvantaged or isolated frontier zones. They might boom then bust over a short period, boom indefinitely or in cycles, or experience an incomplete boom. Their success is often dependent on their location relative to resource extraction and distribution activities, though not exclusively.

With its location along well-documented inland and coastal trade routes, and with access to an abundance of natural resources on the margins of the ever-expanding heartland of the southern Maya lowlands, the ancient Maya townsite currently known as “Alabama” (ancient name unknown) would seem to fit the “boomtown” bill. We have consistently invoked the concept as a heuristic tool in explaining its development.

Drone shot of Old Bezanson Townsite along the banks of the Smoky River.
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Painting Alberta

Editor’s note: Learn about another artist who used resources from the Provincial Archives of Alberta on her latest project.

Written by: Erin Sekulich, Provincial Archives of Alberta

For five years, Sabine Lecorre-Moore has been traveling all over Alberta to museums, archives and community collections to find photographs featuring the experiences of Albertans. These images mainly depict the outdoors and feature her own interpretation of photographs from the 1800s to the present. While Lecorre-Moore works with several mediums, acrylic paint is Sabine’s tool for her latest project Painting Alberta. The 6”x 6” canvases are intended to be arranged and re-arranged into various patterns based on the exhibit space.

Sabine Lecorre-Moore working in the late Harry Kiyooka’s painting studio.
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Stories of discovery: the Savage Robber

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1995: Atrociraptor marshalli (TMP 1995.166.0001)

The holotype of Atrociraptor marshalli. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Wayne Marshall has been scouring the badlands for fossils in southern Alberta for more than 30 years. First, he discovered petrified wood while working as a surveyor on road construction projects. His passion for palaeontology led to a position in the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s mounting shop from 1983-85, helping construct the soon-to-open exhibits.

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A Haven in the Bush: The Baptiste River Métis Settlement

Editor’s note: Tanisi! This is the concluding post in our series recognizing June as National Indigenous History Month. We hope these posts and resources have helped you learn more about the many diverse cultures, histories and achievements of First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples across what is now Canada. Banner image: The remains of Charlotte’s cabin at the Baptiste River Métis Settlement (Source: Laura Golebiowski).

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Indigenous Heritage Section

It’s a Sunday afternoon in late May. Despite forecasted rains, it is a beautiful day, and the sun shines through the forest canopy of balsam poplar, trembling aspen and tall pines. Sandwiches are pulled from a cooler atop a striped wool blanket, and tea is poured. Family photographs are passed around: black-and-white images of babies bundled in snowsuits and bucking broncos at a rodeo.

We sit down on the soft ground. Gladys motions to the moss surrounding us, noting how it was used by women as menstrual products and to line the moss bags that held babies safe and snug. Wild berries, Labrador tea, mint and medicinal plants are also found here: a reminder that this landscape, almost one hundred years ago, sustained an extended family of Métis matriarchs for more than a decade.

This place is known as the Baptiste River Métis Settlement: a remote location north of the Town of Rocky Mountain House and west of the North Saskatchewan River. Here, three generations of Métis women and their families established their home in the 1930s. They built cabins, raised children, cared for livestock and developed self-reliance, living off the land. Now—nearly a century later—the descendants of these women, along with representatives of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3 and Local 845, return to the site via the old wagon trail (ruts still visible) to tell the story of the ones who lived here. 

George Moritz, Paul Bercier and Bernie Ouellette share stories in front of the remains of Charlotte’s cabin at the Baptiste River Métis Settlement. Source: Laura Golebiowski.

Louise Fleury (née Boushie) was born in Montana in 1875, the great-granddaughter of a Canadian-born Frenchman and a Cree woman. At a school in Chemowa, Oregon, she met Thomas (Tom) Fleury, a man born at Frog Lake. Once married, the couple moved from Montana to Frog Lake, then travelled west with Thomas’ mother, Sara Bushy, to the Rocky Mountain House area to be closer to Louise’s relations.

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Upcoming events for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Indigenous Heritage Section

June 21 is the summer solstice: the longest day of the year. It is a significant time for many Indigenous Peoples and Nations. As early as 1982, Indigenous organizations advocated for a national day to acknowledge their diverse histories, cultures and outstanding contributions. In 1995, June 21 was declared to be National Aboriginal Day—held annually and renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017.

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