Author: Alberta's Historic Places

Early Plant Use in Alberta

Often when we talk about dietary evidence at archaeological sites in Alberta, we are referencing a multitude of game animals, such as bison, elk, moose, etc. What is often missing from these dialogues is the reliance First Nations had on native and traded plants. For the most part, organic material does not survive the test of time; this is especially the case in Alberta’s boreal regions where acidic soils rapidly decompose organics. However, missing data does not mean it was not there in the first place. A wide variety of plant species were utilized by Alberta’s First Nations for subsistence purposes. At archaeology sites, evidence of plant remains can be recovered from sediments, stone tools, and ceramics. Plant microfossil analysis is one method that can be used to identify what plants people were using in the past.

Residue on Sherd

Residue on a ceramic sherd, this can be extracted and processed to identify plants cooked in the vessel (Burchill 2014).

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Canada Historic Places Day 2017

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Longview (Photo Credit: Andrew Penner/Travel Alberta).

July 8th is Canada Historic Places Day, a new initiative of the National Trust of Canada to celebrate more than 12,000 historic places across the country. Each place tells a unique story and more than twenty historic places in Alberta are participating this year.

Visiting these amazing places is reward enough, but you also have a chance to win $1,500! Post a photo of yourself at a participating site on Instagram with the hashtag #HISTORICPLACESDAY, tag the photo’s location, and follow National Trust for Canada on Instagram.

For more information on these and other historic sites, visit the Canadian Register of Historic Places at www.historicplaces.ca.

Visit Alberta’s Historic Sites and Museums: Southern Alberta

Alberta’s provincial historic sites and museums are all open and in full swing with their programs. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, or want to make a pit stop on your roadtrip, check out some of Alberta’s provincial historic sites and museums.

If you’re in southern Alberta this summer, check out the Brooks Aqueduct or Leitch Collieries, two sites that are only open over the summer, from May 15 to Labour Day. And, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, open year round, is just down the road from Leitch Collieries, so it is a good chance to visit both!

  • The Brooks Aqueduct was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1900s and was the largest concrete structure of its kind in the world at the time (spanning a 3.2 km wide valley). The Aqueduct was an important part of an expansive irrigation network in the area and is an impressive site to see!

    The Brooks Aqueduct

  • The Leitch Collieries provincial historic site is located in the Crowsnest Pass and, at its time (1907-1915), was one of the largest and most ambitious coal mines in the pass. Ruins from some of the sandstone buildings that formed the surface operations are still standing. Take a walking tour and enjoy learning about the coal mining history of the area.

    Leitch Collieries

    Leitch Collieries

     

If you’re in central or northern Alberta, stay tuned for sites in your area!

The Lovat Scouts – Rocky Mountain Soldiers

On the evening of January 9, 1944, 500 soldiers arrived in the sleepy mountain town of Jasper, Alberta. Disembarking from the train, they marched through town accompanied by the skirl of their bagpipes and disappeared into the winter’s night. They were the Lovat Scouts, an elite British regimental unit sent to Canada to train for an Allied-led invasion of Nazi-occupied Norway. Far removed from the conflict in Europe, the mountains of Jasper National Park had been chosen as the location for this impressive undertaking.

Originally organized by the 16th Lord Lovat, the Lovat Scouts were a unique fighting force composed of Scottish Highlanders renowned for their excellent marksmanship and command of rugged terrain. The regiment served with great distinction in the South African Boer War and again in WWI where they won much acclaim at Gallipoli. In WWII, the Scouts were selected to be a key part of the Allied-led invasion of Norway. Recognized as having specialized skills adept to a mountain campaign, they were the only British unit to undergo formal training in high altitude warfare.  Their training, which commenced in the mountains of Scotland and Wales, was completed under winter conditions in Jasper National Park.

Lovat Scouts skiing in the Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, ca.1943. Image Courtesy of Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives (PA 25-15).

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Willow, Birch, and Jack Pine… Oh My!: How the Boreal Forest Changes Over Time

Has the boreal forest always been a boreal forest? How do vegetation communities change with age? One thing for certain is that northern boreal forests are young. Compared to the redwood forests of California for example, Alberta’s boreal forest is a ‘baby’. That being said, it’s no baby in size. The boreal forest region in Alberta covers over 55% of the province and is a ‘hot spot’ for ecological diversity.

The forested parts of Alberta figured here are dominated by the boreal forest. The boreal region is renowned for its ecological diversity and is home to hundreds of plants and animals (created by Christina Poletto).

Why is Alberta’s boreal forest so young and how has it changed? Some 12,000 years ago, ice sheets that covered Alberta began to melt and the landscape opened. The Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated to the northeast so that the northwest corner of Alberta was the first region to become free of ice. The newly opened landscape was a productive steppe-tundra environment that lasted for a short period. Species like birch and alder were dominant while smaller shrubs of grasses and willow covered the remaining landscape. (more…)

What Happened to Old Fort Edmonton?

The afternoon of October 11th, 1915 saw removal operations commence. At the time, the buildings associated with Fort Edmonton V (the last incarnation of the fur-trading fort) were seen as an eye-sore next to the newly completed Legislature building and grounds. Newspapers of the day reported that the fort was taken down quickly as some citizens were outraged at its demolition. To quell the panic, the government assured the people that the old fort was being dismantled and would be moved to new quarters, repurposing the buildings as a museum. That never happened and the timbers associated with dismantled Fort Edmonton seemingly disappeared from the public eye. So, what really happened to the old fort? Stories about what happened to the timbers spread like local urban legends, most of them with no apparent basis in fact. There were rumours: that the timbers were reused in the construction of various structures and buildings in and around the Edmonton area; that the timbers sat for years in several piles both outside the Legislature and on the south side of the river; that beams were stored in the basement of the Legislature, before being used as firewood by an uninformed custodian; or that at least some of the historic timbers met their end in a nine-metre high Boy Scout bonfire lit May 12, 1937 to celebrate the coronation of King George VI. While some of these stories have some factual basis, others have not been fully confirmed or discounted.

Demolition of Fort Edmonton (1915), City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-79.

Demolition of Fort Edmonton (1915), City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-79.

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Before SAIT, ACAD and the AFA: A brief history of arts organizations in Alberta

“The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.”

-Jackson Pollock

Modern art is unhappy with the current society; it’s a reflection of reality that’s unabashedly unrealistic. To anyone with a general knowledge and interest in art, you might not think Alberta owes a great deal of its early artistic development to modernist creation. But, modern art indeed played an early role in establishing the foundation for the funding and encouragement of artistic expression in our province. It would be two artists who, tired of the rigid hand of colonial Britain influencing what art “should” be in Alberta, would help other artists, painters and printmakers express themselves in whatever way they saw fit. (more…)