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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE CREMONA-SUNDRE AREA, ALBERTA

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE CREMONA-SUNDRE AREA, ALBERTA

I suppose this is not really a Book Report as a report on some of the findings of the Survey. This report includes what is probably the first and only Prehistoric Population and Land Use study done in Alberta. It is long overdue for it to come into the public domain. Regretably since the heyday of Pure Research and Theoretical Archaeology in Alberta, in the tradition of Dr. Scotty Macneish, archaology in Alberta has been taken over by the Fire-Broken Rock school of archaology, with emphasis on measurement and description of the observeable physical aspects of a site, at the cost of the less-measurable social history of the site. Blame for this falls squarely on the University of Calgary Department of Archaology and Dr. Barney Reeves, with the push to foster archaeology as a Science, specifically an Earth Science, and ignoring archaology as a Social Sciente. This was reinfoced by the creation of the Archaology section of the Government of Alberta's Culture Department which under Dr. Ives Brink stressed and exceptionally narrow approach of collection of minuatae from archaeological sites but did not foster interpretation of those sites in other than purely spatial terms. With Alberta Culture espousing the Salvage Archaeology concept (let business pay for the research to get the site out of their way), this collection, or 'mitigation' naturally took precedent. As a result, Alberta Archaology has a plethora of information of the size and weight of Fire Broken Rocks and archaeological sites that were in the way of pipline construction (when they were not dug through first and 'mitigated' later) - and precious little that tells us about the lives of the prehistoric occupants of this province. This study was one of the Large Area Surveys carried out in Alberta for a few years aroundn 1970, in which the author took part in most. This included the Banff National Park study, the Jasper National Park study, the Waterton National Park study, the Suffield Block study, the Bow-Highwood-Sheep-Kananaskis basins and the Cremona-Sundre (officially the Foothills Archaology and Biology Expedition) study. These gathered considerable useful data on early man Land Use and population studies - which were quickly filed away and forgotten once the reports were out. Left: A portion of the Bow-Highwood Study In the Cremona-Sundre area this data was taken to the next level of analysis, with the analysis of site and population distribution, population reconstruction and land use. Population reconstuction is a mathema- tical hypothesis and math being explained else- where and need not be gone into detail here. At the time that this study was done the establishment response was that such reconstructions were impossible. Recently (2010) the acceptance of the principle and conclusions have crept into the literature. Reconstruction starts with the McKean Culture, this being the oldest found by the survey. It is not the oldest known occupancy - two Fluted points of the Fewkes type - possibly Folsom, were found in the area, a large and a small (atlatl ?) Alberta Point (Cody Complex), as well as two Oxbow points have been found in the area by private collectors, but no such remains were found in the 1971 survey. For a number of reasons - lack of good provenience, lack of equally repre- sentative samples collected from other periods, etc., these finds were not included in all calculations, and were left out of the population distribution reconstuction maps. This was corrected and expanded upon in the 1972 paper PREHISTORIC CULTURAL DISTRIBUTION AND DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS IN WESTERN SOUTH ALBERTA, and the follow-up A STUDY IN DEMOGRAPHY BASED ON SURFICIAL BLADE-POINT RECOVERY which did a statistical analyis of projectile points and their distribution from 12 large-area surveys in southern Alberta. The lithics for the projectile points of these early cultures varied, but included a high percentage of materials not indiginous to Alberta, which would have required importing or transportation of the material. Alberta Points/Cody Complex, with it's massive points, had a preference for obsidian, obtained in Wyoming or parts of British Columbia. Reconstruction of the population density shows a generally low early popula- tion, as would be expected, peaking at 7,000 B.C. and climbing to another minor peak at 2,700 B.C. before shooting up to a huge spike in 1,500 B.C., being the Pelican Lake times. From there there is a steep decline and a recovery in Besant times, droping at the beginning of the Late Plains times back to as low a population density as in 3,000 B.C. Essentially this chart can be taken as a representation of the ebb and flow of population in the Cremona - Sundre area over time. Relatively low and stable initially, punctuated by a sudden growth or influx and decline around 7,000 B.C., a steady growth to 3,000 B.C. followed by a decline, and a sudden increase around 1,500 B.C. which can only have been caused by an influx, not natural population growth. For some reason or other the Cremona - Sundre area had become prime real estate. In fact, this would correspond to the Athapaskan migration southwards. A portion of this Pelican Lake population eventually moved on, though the area remained at it's highest historic population density for several centuries before being followed by an ever greater increase in population of the Besant Culture. Around 500 B.C. these suffered a drastic decline, setting the stage for the Prehistoric Indian population of this area. In terms of Land Use, we find the McKean people represented by about 40 persons in this area, centered mainly on both sides of Cremona Coullee, and area that remained a preferred location for most of the prehistoric cultures. The two locations represent a high elevation in the north, with great viewpoints, and a more sheltered north-facing slope in the south. A third site represents a small foothills hunting camp located on a high bench on a valley side. Cremona South sites location Essentially, the McKean occupation represents a small sub-band of some 3-5 lodges, as would be commonly found among the historic Cree who utilized this area. Such groups were essentially a single extended family group headed up by a patriarch. McKean and subsequent cultures tended to use indiginous lithic materials. McKean, Duncan and Hannah apparently preferred to use fine-grained sedimentary stone (siltstones and limestones) and occasionally quartzite, easily obtainable from local cobbles. The succeeding Hannah and Duncan Cultures are generally held to be extentions or outgrowths of the McKean. Here they represent a continued population growth in the area, with the Hannah numbering some 184 persons, which would represent about an average-size band among the Cree and Nakoda who later occupied these lands. The Hannah people centered on the Cremona North location, but also had smaller camps or occasional usage of sites on Dogpound Creek and in the Nitchie Creek area. This distribution is similar to that of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda of later times. Among these Mountain Cree/Nakoda this actually represented two bands, a more westerly band making use of the Nitchie Creek area and the more easterly making use of the Dogpound Creek area. These two locations lie along the Stoney Trail in the west and the Cree Trail in the east. The Duncan people, successors or co-existent with the McKean and Hannah, numbered some 288 persons, apparently existing as a single band. Land-use of the Duncan peoples differs from that of the Hannah people, but is identical to that of the McKean people. As well as utilizing the Cremona South area, the Duncan people also made considerable use of the higher lands south and east of this location. Historically, the Blackfoot bands who occasionally used this area tended to be of this monolithic type. Note that Hannah and Duncan occupations are contemporaneous, the Hannah people apparently making more use of the northwest of the area, the Duncan more to the southeast. This implies several things. 1. Hannah and Duncan were culturally related, but this does not necessarily imply ethnic or social kinship. 2. Hannah people were more parklands/woodlands oriented, Duncan people were more parkland/plains oriented. At least in this area. 3. Hannah and Duncan peoples probably represent two different tribal affiliations. 4. We can assume the socio-political relations were analagous to those between the historic Blackfoot and Atsina or Blackfoot and Cree relations, Cree and Tsuu T'Ina relations, Cree and Nakoda relations or Blackfoot and Tsuu T'Ina relations. - The former was charactrerized by friendly relations as allied people with probable (but little actually identifiable) intermarriage. In time the two fell out and became inveterate enemies. - Blackfoot/Cree relations were more complicated. Different Blackfoot and Cree groups tended to have excellent relations, while others were mainly hostile. This was usually a factor of distance - the more distant the groups were from each other the more likely they were to be hostile. Blackfoot and Cree groups who 'resided' in this area were invariably friendly to each other, even when other factions were at war. They had a high degree of intermarriage - the North Piegan orignated from such intermarriage; the Bloods had a "Cree" band. Locally they were frequently found traveling together seperated by some 10-20 miles. Seasonally they could be found camped within a few miles of each other. - Local Cree and Tsuu T'Ina relations tended to be mutually tolerant. Though there was some intermarriage, relations tended to be reserved. The Tsuu T'Ina were subject attack from more distant Cree groups. Locally they were frequently found traveling together seperated by some 10-20 miles. - Cree and Nakoda relations were invariably friendly and allied, the two groups being much inter-mixed and intermarried. Locally they were commonly found camped and traveling together and were virtually one people. - Blackfoot and Tsuu T'Ina relations were friendly, but there is little indication of intermarriage. The Tsuu T'Ina were often to be found in the company of the Siksika Blackfoot, traveling and camping within a few miles of each other. Though friendly and allied, the small Tsuu T'Ina tribe jealously guarded it's independence and had no qualms at standing in opposition politically to any or all of the Blackfoot Nation if they differed in opinion. Like the Siksika Blackfoot, the Tsuu T'Ina tended to maintain peaceful relations with the neighboring Cree/ Nakoda. The Pelican Lake pople represent the highest use of the area, numbering some 384 people. As noted, they are probably Athabaskans who utilized the area during their drift southwards. As with all population reconstructions, the figures are based on the time period accepted for the period of existence for the culture in an area. Ergo, if the Pelican Lake people merely passed through the area (in say half the time normally alloted to their occupation) then the net population numbers would be higher - such as 778 persons occupying half the time. Again they centered on the Cremona north and south areas but also on the Dogpound Creek-Beaverdam Creek heights. All three of these areas are uplands regions and most Pelican Lake sites in the area are found on hillside terraces. Ecologically today they grade transitionally from parkland to plains. More intensive use is also made of the Silver Creek and Grease Creek areas which here today are grasslands microenvironments. It has been postulated by others that the Pelican Lake people normally travelled as small bands of some 50 persons who coallesced occasionally for major hunts. If this is the case, the Cremona area would represent such a major camp. This pattern is consistent with that of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda where the bands tended to travel as a body but as small family groups scattered over a broad area and combining and re-combining in various combinations as these groups came together or split off. It has also been postulated that the plains were virtually unoccupied during this time period. This is certainly not the case in the Cremona-Sundre area. Pelican Lake is seen as a transition period from the use of the Atlatl to the bow, resulting in a change in the size of projectile points during this period. There were 4 distinct sub-types of the Pelican Lake points found in the area Pelican Lake Cremona A-C, Pelican Lake C Stemmed and Pelican Lake Wetaskiwin (see AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO PROJECTILE POINTS FOR THE ALBERTA REGION). It is not clear if these represent variations by different makers, different social groups (bands?) or different temporal periods. It is believed that they are contemporaneous but representing different groups co-existing at different times. Pelican Lake shows a distinct preference for the use of a black "fine-grained siltstone" - presumably Exshaw Formation limestone - major quarry and workshop sites for which have been found on Kananaskis Lakes in the Front Ranges to the southwest. The sole Pelican Lake Wetaskiwin point found - a type more common some 100 miles NE - was made of a mottled brown-black chert. Three examples of the Pelican Lake Stemmed are so mathematically precise in relationship (including a side notch spokeshave) that they must certainly have been made by the same person, though found at 3 different sites. The Besant population drops to some 293 persons - again one or two bands. In terms of land use, they tended to represent both patterns already found in the area in that they made intensive use of the Cremona north and south area (including the southern uplands), as well as the Nitchi Creek area. Again, the Nitchi Creek site may suggest that this group was more westerly woodlands-foothills oriented. The Besant people are generally considered to be a Plains adapted people found principally on the Canadian plains and having more affinity to the Hannah and Duncan cultures of the past than to the preceeding Pelican Lake culture. They can more-or-less be seen as Algonkian peoples, ancestral to the Blackfoot and Atsina/Arapaho. The Besant people of the Cremona-Sundre area are among the westernmost extension of these people. Further to the south they tended to co-exist and mix with the Avonlea group, a late Pelican Lake offshoot, the mixed peoples eventually becoming at least in part the Kutenai. Besant peoples appeared to have a preference for quartzites for their points. By the Late Plains prehistoric period the population had droped to 103 people, about the size of a typical band for the later Mountain Cree/Nakoda. The principal camp is now in the Nitchi Creek area, suggesting that this group is principally a foothills/woodlands oriented group. Smaller outlying camps are at Cremona north, along the western shoulder of Dogpound Creek (on the edge of the plains) and at the Silver Creek hunting camp. All this suggests a more westerly woodlands people who made hunting excursions eastward into the edge of the plains. This would be consistent with the behavior of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda who occupied this area in later times, particularly of the more westerly band. Alternatively, the Dogpound Creek and Cremona sites could represent westerly outlying sites from a more plains-oriented group. Just off the lower left edge of the map lies the Madden Buffalo jump, which would have been in use at this time. The jump was known to both the later Mountain Cree/Nakoda, Tsuu T'Ina and Blackfoot, who hunted in the area, though neither of the three have any tradition of ever having used the jump themselves. In terms of lithics, the materials used were again primarily siltstones and limestones found in local cobbles. Interestingly, there is no representation of the Avonlea type points in the area, or of their successors, though their presence is known from the area of Old Women's Buffalo Jump, 100 miles to the south. TRAILS On another level, it was possible to identify trail patterns based on the distribution of archaeological sites. It was then possible to correlate
these trail patterns with trails shown on early maps of the area. Correlation of these trails further led to the correlation with McClintock's supposed "Old North Trail". Tracking of travel along the northern section of this trail confirms the existence of the "Old North Trail" Site distribution showed a consistent tendency for site concentrations to be spread about 8 miles apart. This suggests that the daily travel distance was about 8 miles. Sites were found to be located on both sides of fords on the larger streams. This suggests that at the end of an 8 mile treck, camp was established on the near side of the ford, rather than continuing on to the other side. more on Cremona-Sundre More Alberta Archaeology Continue to The Western Cree index Continue to a listing of Bands/Nations for select Indian Tribes OTHER SELECTIONS Return to Heritage Consulting homepage Return to Native Studies directory Return to Native Tribes listings Continue to History Bibliography Continue to History directory Continue to Historic photos Continue to Book Reviews directory Continue to Books for sale Continue to Collectibles for sale Continue to The Western Plains Cree index
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