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.
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.
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.”Read more
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.
- Official events from the Government of Alberta
- City of Edmonton event schedule
- City of St. Albert
- Rupertsland Institute
- Portage College
- University of Calgary
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.
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.
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:
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
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.
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.Read more
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.
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)
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.
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.