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1 Introduction On December 31, 1792, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) surveyor Peter Fidler arrived at the headwaters of the Oldman River,in present-day southern Alberta,at a place now known as the Gap.This visit was a historic occasion: it marked the furthest exploratory foray of a European yet into what was then Piikáni territory; it was also at this spot that Fidler made the first contact with the Ktunaxa.This study is an examination of a footnote to that historic occasion, a “curiosity” that briefly captivated Fidler’s attention that day.What he observed, recorded what he could learn of,and sketched in his journal (HBCA E.3/2,fo.17;Figure 1) was the prehistoric rock alignment and gaming place known as Old Man’s Playing Ground.1 It was the namesake of Oldman River—was in the sense that Fidler’s is the only account to have described it while it was still intact. No trace of the playing ground can be seen today. This study began simply as an attempt to identify the most probable location of Old Man’s Playing Ground and to determine whether any portion of it could be detected through archaeological testing.That effort was unsuccessful:while a landform matching the site’s description still exists, if the rock alignment observed by Fidler was located there, it has been washed away by the Oldman River, probably in the past century.The archaeological record of the adjacent prehistoric campsite DlPo-8, also examined in this study, does reinforce the Gap’s importance as a locus for interaction and trade to peoples from either side of the Rocky Mountains, particularly in the Late Prehistoric period. Traditions of gambling and gaming at Old Man’s Playing Ground mentioned by Fidler and other historic and ethnographic accounts are of considerable value in interpreting these archaeological materials. Perhaps most significant in Fidler’s description of the playing 1. This English translation of the site’s name was first presented by Dawson (1886: 80). Rationale for its use throughout this work is provided in Chapter 1. Figure 1 Peter Fidler’s sketch of the playing ground in the Gap (Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, E.3/2, fo. 17) 2 INTRODUCTION ground is his serendipitous recording of an ancient story about Old Man, the Creator and Trickster figure in a number of First Nations traditions,2 which continues to be told today. The perdurance of this tradition and its link to a specific part of the landscape suggest a site that, to the First Nations who share knowledge of it, goes “to the core of their cultural values and identity” (Kitkatla Band v. British Columbia, Supreme Court of Canada [SCC] 2002: par. 46).3 The Gap continues to be of special significance in spite of the apparent fate of the site. Long before its eventual destruction, the abandonment of Old Man’s Playing Ground was the inevitable outcome of two centuries of European and Euro-Canadian influence on the First Nations of western Canada. The process by which knowledge even of its 2. Old Man is known as Napi to the Niitsitapi peoples and Xalítsà-tsi to theTsuut’ina;he is further referred to interchangeably in some cases withTrickster,Sičáŋyuški to the Nakoda and Wîsahkeâhk to the Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) (see discussion in Chapter 1). 3. In this benchmark decision,a B.C.First Nation contested the province’s jurisdiction over cultural heritage (in this case, culturally-modified trees), allowing it to be destroyed. Although he ruled against Kitkatla,Justice Lebel said he could envision sites of such significance that the issue could be revisited. Figure 2 Study area (maps adapted from Natural Resources Canada 2002, 2009) GABRIEL M. YANICKI 3 location came to be lost is symptomatic of a broader erasure of cultural identity brought about by an era of imposed residence on reserves and attendance at residential schools.This study aims to draw together traditional knowledge,historic and ethnographic accounts,and archaeological findings to identify those communities that have ties to the site and for whom there may exist a duty to consult in the long-term management of the area as a significant cultural resource. It is my hope that this work can assist in this threatened aspect of aboriginal heritage being preserved and someday even reclaimed. Study overview Primacy of place is given in this study to First Nations traditions; it is from...


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