First Nations

“Blackfoot encampment, southern Alberta.”, [ca. 1890], (CU1133905) by Thompson, S. J.. Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park not only protects precious natural ecosystems, but also preserves important cultural resources. Some historic structures are easy to see, however the many cultural features that predate the arrival of settlers are not as visible. In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, it is time to highlight the Indigenous history of the park.

Glenbow has a long history of human use. According to the oral histories of First Nations, people have been here since time immemorial. From an archaeological perspective, the precise arrival of humans in the area can never be known, for several reasons. For example, that arrival would have to leave behind physical remains, and they would have to survive to present day. Also, the remains would have to be discovered, and must be capable of providing accurate dates. Archaeologists can only estimate what actually occurred based on the limited surviving evidence.

The earliest archaeological record of humans in what is now Alberta goes back about 11,000 years, to the time when the last glaciers retreated. Because the landscape of the park was so altered by glaciers, it is unlikely that archaeological evidence predating the glacial era will be unearthed.

When Glenbow was designated as a provincial park, an archaeological survey of the ground surface was conducted. No excavations were done, yet almost 30 sites were recorded that predate contact with European-based cultures. Because these sites were on the modern land surface, they are probably fairly recent, however one stone tool fragment was found that is about 3000 years old. Most of the sites were stone circles; at least some of these circles mark the former locations of tipis. Some are situated near the Bow River, while others are on the highlands. The different locations may reflect use during different seasons, further evidence of extensive use of the area in the past.

Certainly, the Indigenous peoples were the inhabitants of the land that is now GRPP for innumerable generations. “Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is located on the lands of Treaty 7 territory. We acknowledge the past, present, and future generations of Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot, Tsuut’ina and Piikani, part of the Dene people, who help us steward these lands, as well as honour and celebrate this place.”

Today, with the increasing demands of urban populations, it is more important than ever to protect our natural and cultural resources. Stewardship of GRPP is a wonderful way to show love and appreciation for this fabulous park and all the history it contains.

Reminder: Shari will be at the Cochrane Public Library on Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 PM for a presentation about her new book Alberta’s Cornerstone: Archaeological Adventures in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, published by Heritage House Publishing. Her presentation will cover the archaeological work that inspired the book, summarize the history of the park area, and introduce some of the individuals featured in the book.

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