Stories of discovery: Devil’s Coulee nesting site

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)

Technician Dawna Macleod poses with a prepared hadrosaur nest from Devil’s Coulee. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

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.

The Devil’s Coulee Provincial Historic Site. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
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After two seasons of closures, Alberta’s historic sites set to reopen

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.

The modern visitor centre at Fort George & Buckingham House was opened exactly 200 years after the original fur trade forts were built. Inside you’ll find an interactive museum gallery, travelling exhibits, activities, guided tours and modern visitor facilities. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

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.

Be sure to check out Fort George & Buckingham House’s Facebook and website for details of all the upcoming events! We hope to see you there.

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!

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Heritage Awards nominations close soon

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.

Recipients will be recognized at an awards ceremony in September during Alberta Culture Days.

To nominate an individual or group, fill out a nomination form and drop off, mail, courier or email your nomination package to:

Heritage Awards Program
Old St. Stephen’s College Building
8820 112 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T6G 2P8
Email: csw.heritageawards@gov.ab.ca

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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Nominations open for 2022 Heritage Awards

When you think about “preserving” history, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the university academic who has dedicated their lives to understanding one particular subject. Maybe it’s an exhibit at facilities like the Royal Alberta Museum. Or perhaps it’s a developer working to restore a historical building. Whatever the avenue or activity, helping ensure our stories are told, understood and not forgotten are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

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.

Recipients will be recognized at an awards ceremony in September during Alberta Culture Days.

To nominate an individual or group, fill out a nomination form and drop off, mail, courier or email your nomination package to:

Heritage Awards Program
Old St. Stephen’s College Building
8820 112 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T6G 2P8
Email: csw.heritageawards@gov.ab.ca

And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta

Launched in 2013, the Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP) is an initiative of the Edmonton Heritage Council that explores the history of our city through story. Through stories, podcasts and live events, ECAMP helps tell the stories that connect us, the stories that divide us, and the stories that nurture an appreciation of our differences as Edmontonians.

In our final instalment for Black History Month, it is our pleasure to share And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta, a virtual exhibit highlighting the formation of Alberta’s Black communities from the late 1800s to the early 1970s. The banner image at the top of the page is courtesy of the Athabasca Archives.

“Strength of Will and a Heavy Dose of Hope”: The Story of Black Settlement at Keystone

Editor’s Note: February is Black History Month, a time to honour the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities. Throughout the post below are excerpts of the poem “Our Pioneers” by Gwen Hooks, appearing in the book The Keystone Legacy: Recollections of a Black Settler. The banner image above is Ron Smith, grandson of Elizabeth Hayes, in front of the Hayes family home. Breton, Alberta, circa 1950. Credits: Nellie Whalen, Breton and District Historical Museum.

Author’s note: I am grateful to the past work of the Breton and District Historical Society, who have made these compelling histories so accessible to the public through various public awareness initiatives. This post greatly relies Gwen Hook’s excellent book The Keystone Legacy: Recollections of a Black Settler. I would also like to express my gratitude to Allan Goddard of the Breton and District Historical Museum for being so gracious with his time and knowledge.

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Indigenous Heritage Section

The Black Pioneers to a new land came,

Around the year of nineteen ten,

Oklahoma and Kansas they left behind

A strange new life to begin.

As heritage professionals, it seems an unwritten rule that we must stop and read every historic interpretive sign we pass. It was in this way I was first introduced to the story of Keystone, driving home from Paul First Nation in the summer of 2021. The big blue highway sign spoke of a distinctive community built by Black families who arrived in the area from Oklahoma in the spring of 1911.

I was familiar with the story of Amber Valley, understood to have been the largest Black settlement west of Ontario. I quickly learned, however, that Amber Valley was only one of several Black-founded communities in western Canada at the turn of the century. Others included Wildwood (east of Edson), Campsie (northwest of Edmonton), Maidstone (in west-central Saskatchewan), and Keystone, now named Breton, located southwest of Edmonton.

They left a country so warm and rich,

With fruit plus nuts and grain,

They chose Alberta that was rugged and cold,

Huge trees covered the rough terrain.

The origin stories for these communities are much the same. A chain reaction of land dispossession saw the settlement of Indian Territory, forcing the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Peoples from their lands. Oklahoma statehood introduced Jim Crow laws and segregation, making the area incredibly dangerous for the Black families already residing in the new state. Thus began the Black migration north: from 1905 to 1912, between 1,000 and 1,500 African Americans moved to western Canada from the United States in search of a better life. However, upon arrival, pervasive racism in city centres prompted Black settlers to establish roots in rural areas.

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Athabasca public school designated a Provincial Historic Resource

Editor’s note: In 2021, a well-known landmark in the Town of Athabasca was designated a Provincial Historic resource and is now listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

Written by: Ronald Kelland, MA, MLIS, Historic Places Research Officer

Front (west-facing) façade of the Athabasca Public School showing some of the building’s character-defining elements, notably the crenellated parapet roofline, variegated use of red brick and lighter-coloured stone highlights such as the foundation, front entry arch and cornice, lintels and sills, 2005. Source: Alberta Culture and Status of Women.

The Athabasca Public School is located in the Town of Athabasca, occupying a prominent, treed lot at the end of 48 Avenue. It has long been a significant landmark in the community. It has heritage value as a representation of pre-First World War construction and design trends for schools and as an excellent example of Edwardian-era, Collegiate Gothic architecture.   

Athabasca Landing, 1909. Taken from the north side of the Athabasca River. Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-2788-3.

A significant transportation hub for many decades where riverboat traffic met the trail head for the Athabasca Trail to Edmonton, Athabasca Landing was a booming community in the opening decade of the 1900s. Town status was achieved in 1911, with the community expected to be a major stop on at least one of the planned railways from Edmonton to northern Alberta. That expectation seemed assured when the much delayed Edmonton & Slave Lake Railway arrived in 1912. Following a devastating fire in August 1913, the town built back with a purpose. New structures would be mostly made of brick or stone and, driven by speculation on a bright future, were grander than one might otherwise expect in a community of Athabasca’s size.

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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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