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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Flight as entertainment: a brief history of barnstorming

Written by: Sara Bohuch, BA Archaeology (Simon Fraser University) , MSc Conservation Practice (Cardiff University)

In 1903, the New York Times predicted that it would take a million years for humanity to be able to fly. Two months after this opinion was published, the Wright Brothers successfully launched their homemade aircraft in North Carolina, beginning the rise of North America’s aviation age. The lesson to take from this is, of course, to never completely write off the human race’s capacity to discover, innovate and possess a deep desire to see their siblings launched off of things. 

Aviation, being a handy way of exploring wide open places, made its way north of the border into Canada swiftly after. The idea to use flying these machines to entertain the masses came about at almost at the same time.

The term ‘barnstorming’ refers to a style of stunt flying where pilots would perform tricks in an airplane to the amazement of a crowd below. The style gained huge popularity after the First World War when many newly trained pilots came back to North America. This was before large-scale commercial aviation, and jobs in the aviation industry were few and far between. Performing to crowds in whatever airplane they could scrounge up was one of the only ways aviators could make money, and the crowds loved it. Not many had even seen an airplane let alone someone do aerial tricks in one. 

This curiosity about aircraft became key for drumming up business for a practicing barnstormer. The pilots would fly their aircraft low over a small rural town and, when they had gotten the attention of the people, would land in a nearby farmer’s field. After negotiating with that farmer to use their property as a runway, the barnstormer proceeded to offer airplane rides to interested townsfolk or offer them flight shows filled with stunts like the good old loop-de-loop. Once the show was done, it was off to the next town.  

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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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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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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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“ᒥᔪᑕᒧᐣ ᓇᓇᓂᐢ miyotamon nananis – it is a good road in all directions”

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.

Artist Heather Shillinglaw worked from scrip, maps, paintings, letters, and drawings – even negotiating with fellow researchers for records they were already viewing; trading and exchanging knowledge through the process. Source: Heather Shillinglaw.
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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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