June is Indigenous Peoples’ Month, a time to honour the heritage and culture of First Peoples in Canada. June 21 also marks the annual National Indigenous Peoples Day. Here in Alberta , there are events happening around the province to celebrate the unique histories, cultures and contributions from First Nations, Métis and Inuit heritages.
Indigenous people have for thousands of years relied on the tradition of oral storytelling to pass down their history to future generations.
A few years ago, the Siksika Consultation Office received an Alberta Historical Resources Foundation grant and produced these two beautifully-shot vignettes featuring two significant stories from Blackfoot culture.
The first tells the story of Crowsnest Mountain and the birth of seasons. The second tells the story of the first marriages, based around Women’s Buffalo Jump south of present-day Cayley, Alberta.
Thanks to the Siksika Consultation Office for letting us share these important stories.
Editor’s note: The following blog post is part two of a two-part series looking at the history and influence of Doukhobors in Alberta. Read part 1 here.
Written by: Matthew Wangler, Historic Resources Management Branch
Following the establishment of the community in British Columbia, Verigin sought to diversify and strengthen the Doukhobor economy by purchasing new land in southern Alberta. It was not the first time that the Doukhobors had considered Alberta as a home for their community. In 1898, members of a Doukhobor delegation had initially explored purchasing land near Beaverhills Lake by Edmonton, but the proposal was scuttled, as local Member of Parliament Frank Oliver was opposed to their presence. While some Saskatchewan Doukhobors were working in Alberta as agricultural labourers and construction workers in 1911 and 1912, the first Doukhobor villages in the province were established in 1915 in the Cowley/Lundbreck area. Additional land was purchased in the following years, and Verigin arranged to rent land in the Vulcan area on a crop-share basis. The Alberta Doukhobors dedicated themselves to growing grain and raising horses and cattle. The settlements were successful, and at their peak, they boasted 300 members in 13 small villages. The communities tended to 300 horses and 400 shorthorn cattle, and produced 100,000 bushels of grain annually; they also constructed two-grain elevators and a flour mill. The Doukhobors seemed well-suited to the physical landscape of southern Alberta, and found that the region was also distinctly accommodating to smaller religious communities. Anabaptist groups like the Mennonites and Hutterites had already established themselves in the area, as had Mormons fleeing persecution in the United States. During their time in Alberta, the Doukhobors also developed positive relations with their Blackfoot neighbours.
Over the past few months, some of Alberta’s municipalities have been protecting their built heritage by designating a number of new Municipal Historic Resources (MHRs). These resources are structures and other sites that the municipality has deemed to be of significant heritage value to their community. Like Provincial Historic Resources, municipal designations are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Municipally designated properties also qualify for conservation grants from the Alberta Historic Resources Foundation.
The City of Lethbridge recently added six new MHRs to the Alberta Register of Historic Places. As of May 31, 2019, the City of Lethbridge has 26 designated MHRs listed.
The most recent listed designations by the City of Lethbridge are:
Located in the Victoria Park neighbourhood on 14th Street South between 3rd and 4th Avenue, the Watson Residence is an Edwardian Foursquare with classical revival detailing and ornamentation. It was built in 1910/11. It has heritage value as an example of residential construction during Lethbridge’s rapid expansion in the pre-First World War period, and as an excellent example of an urban foursquare home. It was also the residence of Allan James Watson, who was a long-serving superintendent of the Lethbridge School District.
Stone tools and debitage, also known as lithics, are one of the most common types of artifacts found in Alberta. In the past, stone tools were an essential part of Indigenous ways of life. These stone tools and associated debitage (pieces flaked off while the stone tool was being manufactured) are made from a variety of stone types, but generally they need to be produced from quality raw materials. The characteristics of a quality raw material for making stone tools include stones that are finer-grained, somewhat brittle and uniform in texture and structure, and have few or no inclusions because these might make the rock break in unpredictable ways. Some of the highest quality material that was used in Alberta in the past comes from other places around North America, such as Knife River Flint from North Dakota, obsidian from British Columbia and the northwestern United States, and other types of cherts, argillites and other materials from neighboring provinces and states. However, several material types are available locally. Some of the most common types available in Alberta include quartzites, siltstones, cherts and petrified wood. In East Central Alberta, a common type of rock utilized by Indigenous groups in the past was pebble chert. There are areas where this stone is readily available and it can be high enough quality to be knapped into tools. While these pebble cherts can sometimes be found today in road cuts or blowouts all across East Central Alberta, there are two pre-contact quarries and associated archaeological sites near Consort, AB where large concentrations of these materials were found, collected and utilized. At these sites, there is evidence that Indigenous groups used rounded and fist-sized pebbles of chert to make stone tools.
The Misty Hills quarry site and complex (Borden block EkOp) is unique because it has large densities of both high quality chert and quartzite pebbles found in more than 130 blowouts across the site. In addition to the raw pebbles, there are many associated quarry Read more →
Editor’s note: This post is part two of the previous weeks’ article.
Written by: Judy Half
Treaty Six territory in Alberta hosts diverse Indigenous communities; however their histories are still relatively unknown. In the 1980s, Indigenous Studies looked more at the Indian politics (Treaty), and government relations and women were often left out of the patriarchal and hegemonic discourses.
Anthropology is where I found I could apply a study of Plains Cree culture. Eurocentrism and ethnocentric discourse in Alberta have entrenched a cultural lens that is built on exclusion and homogeneity of Indigenous groups. Anthropologists such as David Mandelbaum (who studied the Plains Cree in Saskatchewan) and Clark Wissler (who studied Blackfoot culture) used a selective process that was resonant of the cultural centres and cultural diffusion approaches, and that would in turn be used to interpret and influence a way of understanding the Indigenous life western Canada.
In 2008, I began work with the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) as the Aboriginal Liaison Officer, handling repatriation applications for the Blackfoot. Within this time frame, I also began to care for Cree collections and researched sacred objects in the context of Little Hunter’s Band. While completing my Masters of Arts in Integrated Studies (MAIS) that laddered the Heritage Resource Management Program through Athabasca University, I began exploring the oppression and subjugation of the Plains Cree within the context of Heritage and Cultural Management. My research is informed by Linda Tuhiwia Smith, author of Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, as well as Paulette Steeves’ work on decolonizing education, culture and heritage, both of whom illustrate ways to approach tangled histories often seen in places where oppression and subjugation of Indigenous peoples occurs.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series exploring the experience of the Plains Cree through both pre-treaty and contemporary experiences. Part two will be posted next week.
Written by: Judy Half
I am an Indigenous researcher. I apply interdisciplinary research approaches (Indigenous studies, anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, history and decolonization) and a Plains Cree (Nehiyawiwin) praxis to my historical analysis. To aid in understanding the Alberta landscape, I implement traditional Nehiyaw ontology, as well as epistemology through oral histories and legends.
I have worked in various institutions and on numerous projects, conducting research on the objects and artifacts in collections. I am interested in this work as means to decolonize, through Nehiyaw interpretations about social, sacred and political spaces in Alberta. My Plains Cree world view is “pimacihowin-nehiyaw life, living and experience’. Today, traditional Nehiyaw life would not be possible without the resilient generations before me, that were challenged with Indian policies of assimilation, subjugation and oppression. Sadly, this oppression continue today in the area of culture and heritage in Alberta.
Colonizing the West and Cultural Complexities
The race to claim Canada’s west involved colonial expansion, building of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and treaties with First Nations. The expediency of this process, and the ramifications of it, are still not fully understood to this day. The use of anthropology and archaeology to interpret the past and collect culture, in a Eurocentric and ethnocentric way, has helped to create the land and heritage issues that still to this day contribute to the marginalization of First Nations in Treaty Six.
I belong primarily to Little Hunter’s/Onchiminahos (pronounced in Cree as Oonah-tah-mee-na-hoos) Band, as well as the Blue Quills Band. These two bands, along with two others, were forcibly amalgamated into one reserve after the signing of Treaty at Fort Pitt in September 9,1876. While Chief Little Hunter is mentioned in a few references after this treaty, his contributions are not well-documented in history books or academia. A similar experience had occurred with Chief Blue Quills, whose people were stripped of the lands they occupied.
I spoke with a male relative and he suggested that both Chief Little Hunter and Chief Blue Quills were aggressive leaders, and I believe that this aggression were acts of resistance against Indian policy. However, in the years that followed the treaty at Fort Pitt, numerous government policy, laws and initiatives would further the subjugation of Indigenous peoples, outlawing the practice of ceremony and cultural traditions. This created the mechanism by which many Treaty Six communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan would become marginalized from the colonial society (past and present).
In the summer of 1886, surveyor J. C Nelson of the Department of Indian Affairs surveyed the Saddle Lake reserve (Onihcikiskowapowin, the image on the lake) for the four bands: James Seenum (originating from Lac La Biche), Bears Ears (Muskegwatic) or Wasatnows Band, Onchiminahos (Little Hunter’s Band), and the Blue Quills Band. On July 28, 1886, surveys were completed the for the reserves of Goodfish (Pakan, Whitefish) Lake I.R No. 128 and Wasatnow I.R 126(Big Bears Ear). Saddle Lake and Blue Quills (Egg Lake- present day Andrew) I.R 125 would be completed two years later. The final reserve survey was completed in 1887, and Order in Council P. C 1151 stated that Goodfish Lake maintained its own land base, while the other bands lived within the reserve boundaries of I.R 125. Goodfish Lake maintain their own tribal identity.
Amalgamation was used as a tactic in other adjacent areas. The four bands comprising Maskwacis is a similar example, however, each maintain their own tribal identities. In what is now the City of Edmonton, Papaschase reserve was dismantled by Indian Department and many band members relocated to other Indigenous communities, including Maskwacis, Enoch, Saddle Lake and Beaver Lake . In the United States, the reservation period involved the displacement or dispossession of enemy tribes within the same reserve space (this was the case for the Shoshone and Arapahoe Nations).
Adding to the complexity was the implementation by government to control band membership. Henry Bird Steinhauer was an Ojibwa Methodist who lived with the Goodfish Lake Band and established his mission there, but later his family joined the Saddle Lake Band registry.
Chief Little Hunter, leader of the Onchiminahos Band, lived in areas south of Bodo and Sounding Lake, but had associations to the Crow, Nakoda and Assiniboine tribes. The Peace Pipe, still used today in ceremony and other events, was used at treaty negotiations to illustrate commitment and relationship. Peace pipe agreement on the plains were held with the Assiniboine, Kutenai, Crow, Blackfoot and the Dene. Similar peace pipe treaties existed, but more research is needed to define the law and governance systems that were practiced on the plains.
Traditional adoptive systems were also implemented within Plains Cree governance, such as that of “wahkohtowin,” which translates to all my relations. This practice existed between the Plains Cree, Assiniboine, Kutenai, Stoney, Crow, Sioux, Métis and Blackfoot. Traditional adoptions are still practiced today; many times I have witnessed these transactions between the Stoney and the Cree.
The influx of diverse nations—through government tactics, forced amalgamations, reserve surrenders and/or marriage and adoption—had created tangled genealogies and cultural complexities not fully understood or captured in anthropological study. To fix this, we have to visit the experiences of the First Nations in Treaty. This process will illustrate the complexity and impact of colonialism on Plains Cree of Alberta.
Onchiminahos Band was also dismantled prior to treaty. The building of the CPR, the signing of treaties and the political events and policy used to control band leadership is seen in Little Hunter’s case. Little Hunter’s membership relocated to different reserves, including Ministikwan First Nation in Saskatchewan, and Onion Lake Cree Nation on the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta.