Author: editor, RETROactive

Odd Birds, Good Eggs: Traditional Human Exploitation of Alberta’s Waterfowl

Each March, the vanguard of spring arrives in Alberta on thousands of pairs of wings. Tired, hungry, and honking, near-countless flocks of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) either stop over here or complete the northern leg of their annual migratory path – to rest, refuel, breed, nest, and brood – at or near the edge of Alberta’s many ponds, sloughs, lakes, creeks, and rivers. In the weeks that follow, these geese will be joined by many different bird species, particularly waterfowl, in one of the world’s most abundant migratory bird areas – the Mackenzie-Great Lakes-Mississippi Flyway that crosses western Canada.

Canada geese at Jasper National Park. Photo Credit: Tourism Jasper and Travel Alberta.

The seasonal comings and goings of different kinds of birds is particularly significant to Indigenous groups. According to war chief Fine-Day, the Nehiyawak (Cree) names for six different moons or months describe bird activities within those periods: “Mikiciwpi-cim, Bald Eagle Moon. That is when these birds are seen. Mis-kihpi-cim, Goose Moon … Pinawewipi-cim, Egg Laying Moon or paskawehowipi-cim, Egg Hatching Moon. Paskowipi-cim, Feather Moulting Moon. Ohpahowipi-cim, Starting to Fly Moon. No-tcihitopi-cim, Breeding Moon.”1 Many of these names relate to time periods when certain (more…)

Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May – Canadian Flying Ace and Alberta Aviation Pioneer

This year, 2017, marks Canada’s sesquicentennial – 150 years since Canada became a country; there will be many celebrations across the country on July 1st and throughout the year to mark this milestone! Many people have shaped Canada into the country that we know today, and one of those people is Wilfrid “Wop” May. Enjoy and Happy Canada Day!

Captain W.R. May – Edmonton, 1919 (Courtesy Denny May).

To Wop[1] May who had grown up on the Canadian prairie, the English winter of 1917 must have seemed dreary. With the arrival of spring, he was on his way to the Western Front, and perhaps it had been before leaving England, or at a train station in France, he chanced upon a sign advertising that the Royal Flying Corps were looking for pilots. The fact that more young men were killed in air training accidents than died in combat seemed not to be a deterrent – the lure of adventure in the skies won out – he applied, was accepted and began the process of learning how to fly a plane. (more…)

Spirit Houses in Willmore Wilderness Park

This week’s blog post is guest-authored by the Willmore Wilderness Preservation and Historical Foundation and features work conducted in the summer of 2016 with the support of the Government of Alberta through the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. We hope you enjoy their fascinating stories and stunning photographs.

Willmore Wilderness Preservation & Historical Foundation is a non-profit society registered under the Alberta Societies Act in 2002. The Foundation became a Registered Charitable Organization in 2003. The Foundation preserves the history of the area; focuses on the advancement of education of the park; restores historical pack trails and sites; and enhances the use of Willmore Wilderness Park for Albertans and visitors alike. (more…)

Ask an Expert: Early Stone and Brick Masonry in Alberta

Earlier this month, we received an “Ask an Expert” question via our Facebook page (Alberta’s Historic Places) about early stone and brick masonry in Alberta. The question was:

“I am wondering what information can be found on early stone and brick masonry in Alberta. I find a very limited amount of this type of information available and would love to learn more. Are there any experts in this field, websites, or books written on this subject? Are there any museums that may have displays? Historians or archivists planning guided tours in Alberta? Also, any information on quarries, masons, relative architects, and existing or demolished masonry buildings from the nineteenth and twentieth century would be much appreciated.”

Our experts here at the Historic Resources Management Branch have compiled the following list of resources on this topic, including books, webpages, historic sites and events. We hope that you find it helpful! (more…)

“Erin go Bragh” in Alberta

This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 17th, 2015. We are once again approaching St. Patrick’s Day and we wanted to highlight this great post that talks about the history of the holiday in Alberta. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy.

“What is the matter with the Calgary Irishmen?” asked a frustrated correspondent to the Calgary Herald in March 1916. The writer, who identified themself as ‘F. Fitzsimmons,’ was complaining about the city’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day, with no public events planned to celebrate the day. Fitzsimmons conceded that people were likely distracted by the war effort, but lamented that Calgary’s leading Irish citizens had gotten “cold feet” and failed to plan any celebrations. “If all Irishmen were like the Calgary bunch” closed the writer, then “‘God Save Ireland.’”

The language used by Fitzsimmons in this letter is highly suggestive. By stating that Calgary’s Irish leaders had gotten ‘cold feet,’ he/she was implying that they lacked the courage to publicly celebrate their ethnic heritage. Further, ‘God Save Ireland’ was an explicitly nationalist slogan, associated with the last words of three Irish revolutionaries executed by the British in 1867. In short, Fitzsimmons was calling for an open celebration of Irish identity that did not shy away from nationalist politics. What Fitzsimmons saw as a simple issue, however, was much more complex for the majority of Irish people in Calgary and across Alberta. The often turbulent politics of the Irish homeland, and the campaign for Irish autonomy from (more…)

Ask an Expert and Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year to everyone! We are excited for the New Year and look forward to sharing more of Alberta’s history with our readers. As many of you know, 2017 marks Canada’s 150th anniversary. We hope to touch on this theme throughout the year and highlight the role that Alberta has played in the country’s history. Another goal we have for this year is to connect with our readers more. We want to know what you would like to learn about! So, we are launching a new initiative called Ask an Expert.

Ask an Expert

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The Historic Resources Management Branch of Alberta Culture and Tourism is responsible for the identification and conservation of historic resources in Alberta. Historic Resources include historic places and structures, archaeological sites and artifacts, and traditional use sites. We also deal with geographic place names in the province.

Do you have a question about any of the following topics (related to Alberta)?

  • Historic Places
  • Provincial Historic Resources
  • Heritage Conservation
  • Historic Structures
  • Geographic Place Names
  • Archaeology

If so, we’d love to hear from you! You can submit your question by commenting on any one of our blog posts (preferably related to the topic), or you can leave a comment on our Facebook page or tweet at us on Twitter.

Facebook: Alberta’s Historic Places

Twitter: @ABHistoricPlace

When we receive questions we will track down our resident experts to answer them for you. The answers will be in the form of blog posts or videos.

To get things started we will be giving away a one-time admission pass to one of Alberta’s historic sites or museums to the person whose question we choose for the first Ask An Expert feature! http://www.culture.alberta.ca/heritage-and-museums/museums-and-historic-sites/

Cheers to 2017! We look forward to your questions.

Happy Holidays 2016!

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The staff of the Historic Resources Management Branch wish you a safe and happy holiday season. If you missed it last week, our holiday post was about St. Nicholas Peak!

RETROactive hit a big milestone this year – 5 years of publication and over 250,000 views all time! Thanks to you, our amazing readers, for your support. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Our top 5 posts of 2016 were:

  1. Hollywood in the Canadian Rockies
  2. Changing Animals: Alberta’s Ice Age Megafauna and Wally’s Beach
  3. Blood Kettles and Buffalo Jumps: Communal Hunting on the Plains of Alberta
  4. Alberta on Fire: A History of Cultural Burning
  5. Power and Powder: Early Guns in Alberta

RETROactive will be taking a break over the holidays — we will resume publishing on January 4th, 2017. We look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!