Editor’s note: For our first in a series of posts recognizing June as National Indigenous History Month, take a look at how the Provincial Archives of Alberta assisted a local artist with her newest project. The banner image above photographed by Erin Sekulich.
Written by: Erin Sekulich, Provincial Archives of Alberta
Artist Heather Shillinglaw is a bubbly woman who immediately makes you feel special. Her passion is evident in her work and it is exciting to see that some of the inspiration for her artistic pieces was taken from the Provincial Archives. Heather explains that Miyotamon Nananis – it is a good road in all directions – is the second project she has created that references archival records. Her inspiration is drawn from familial oral history, but the archival resources help fill the gaps in the story. She has gathered research from Library and Archives Canada, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
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.
Imagine inviting the entire graduating class of the University of Alberta in for tea. That’s what Alberta’s first premier, Alexander Rutherford, and his wife Mattie did in 1912. All 20 members of the university’s graduating class attended with their family members. After the first graduation tea, a party they named Founder’s Day, the Rutherfords made the celebration an annual event until 1938. Over 300 grads took tea with the Rutherfords that final year.
The tea party celebrating graduation was held at the Rutherfords’ elegant Edwardian mansion just east of the university campus. Not just neighbours, the Rutherfords had a close relationship with the university. Alexander Cameron Rutherford co-founded the university in 1908. He continued to play an active role at the University, serving as Chancellor from 1927 until his death in 1941. Mrs. Mattie Rutherford played an active role organizing and hosting Founders’ Day. She also hosted, at her home, numerous meetings of the University Women’s Club, of which she was an honourary member. Both the Rutherford children, Cecil and Hazel attended some university classes. Hazel in particular was active within the university community, contributing articles to the university newspaper The Gateway, which helped to keep students away serving during World War One up to date with local news.
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.
1987: Devil’s Coulee Nesting Site (TMP 1987.003.0003)
Wendy Sloboda spent much of her youth exploring the Warner area of southern Alberta. As a high school student in 1986, she worked as an assistant under the direction of Dr. Len Hills at the University of Calgary on a palaeontological impact assessment for a proposed dam near Milk River. She came across abundant dinosaur eggshell fragments on the Milk River Ridge near her home, and reported them to Dr. Hills. A team from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, including Dr. Philip Currie, visited the site with Wendy and her parents to inspect the find.
Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Edward van Vliet, Stephanie McLachlan
May 18 might be an ordinary Wednesday for some, but for Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, it’s a much anticipated day. After two seasons of COVID closures, seven historic sites will be re-opening to visitors next week.
In the eastern part of the province, Fort George & Buckingham House is kicking off summer 2022 in grand style. Not only has the site’s official book Opponents and Neighbours: Fort George and Buckingham House and the early fur trade on the North Saskatchewan River, 1792 to 1800, been published, but 2022 is the visitor centre’s 30th anniversary.
This season also marks the debut of a new exhibit. “Fur Trade Highways of Alberta: Water Transportation, 1780 to 1930,” covers fur trade companies’ gradual transition from canoes, to York boats, to paddle wheelers over 150 dramatic years of change in the fur trade. The exhibit features boating artifacts, a music station, a video about York boat building and life-size boat outlines in the ground to give visitors a real-life sense of how big these boats were.
To celebrate these many milestones, each weekend in July and August will have a different theme. There will be a book launch party, weekends celebrating the river, boats, and the new exhibit, weekends to explore the storied archaeological history of the site, events featuring stories of the many people who lived at Fort George & Buckingham House and a return of the ever-popular Bears and Berries festival!
Reminder that there are just over three weeks left to submit your nominations for the 2022 Heritage Awards!
The Heritage Awards, presented by the Alberta government, help to honour the work of Alberta citizens, groups and communities helping to share protect, preserve and promote our province’s history. The awards recognize individuals, non-profit organizations, corporations, municipalities, First Nations and Metis settlements. To get a sense of the outstanding effort from community members, take a look at the recipients from the last Heritage Awards.
Al Lakusta was a junior high science teacher in Grande Prairie in the 1970s. As part of his lessons, he took students prospecting for fossils at Pipestone Creek. The fossils they found were usually molluscs, like clams and oysters. One day in 1974, Al came across dinosaur fossils when he ventured farther upstream than usual. He looked along the banks for the source of the fallen fossil material, and luckily spotted a ledge about 10 metres above the creek. He clambered up the bank and located the fossil-rich layer. He sent samples of the fossils to the Provincial Museum of Alberta, and consulted with scientists from the Grande Prairie Regional College to learn more about his find. Palaeontologists, including Dr. Philip Currie, were then involved to help identify the bones.
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.
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.
Categories used in notations in the Listing of Historic Resources.
Whether you were on an active search or just stumbled upon one by accident, it’s important to know what to do when you think you’ve discovered a fossil. In Alberta, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology will be your first point of contact. The basics are fairly straightforward: photograph, locate, leave and report. Follow these steps and who knows, you may be making an important contribution to science and palaeontology!
The research completed by palaeontologists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum over the past few decades has largely been made possible by the public support the Museum receives each year. Dozens of significant discoveries have been made across the province by members of the public, and over the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of those amazing discoveries.
First up, one of the most famous dinosaurs skull discoveries in North America. The year is 1980, and two high school students are fishing in the Crowsnest Pass…