restricted access Chapter 3: Landform Identification & Geomorphic Assessment
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61 Chapter 3 Landform Identification & Geomorphic Assessment The reasons for the abandonment of Old Man’s Playing Ground are complex—disease, changing patterns of warfare,and the imposition of the reserve system in the 19th and 20th centuries all likely had a role to play. Due to this process of abandonment, the location of the site is only generally known in First Nations communities today. Oral traditions are quite consistent in pointing to the headwaters of the Oldman River in the vicinity of the Gap, but specific details remain vague. Questions of abandonment may be moot, however, in explaining why the playing ground’s exact location is unknown.The consensus among researchers of the past half-century is that the site has not only been lost, but destroyed, either by road building equipment (D.King,field notebook,16 June 1960,p.16,G M21054 ) or floodwaters of the Oldman (R. Forbis, field notebook, 16 June 1960, p. 6, GA M2105-4; MacGregor 1966: 76). What follows is a summary of attempts to identify the landform on which the playing ground was once found, beginning with a review of the historic accounts by Peter Fidler in 1792 (HBCA E.3/2,fo.17) and George Dawson in 1881 (Dawson 1886:60) and detailing their firsthand observations of the site’s location.These accounts provide a refined set of parameters for the playing ground’s location,and from which more recent scholarly attempts to relocate the site (Forbis 1960, GA M2105-4; MacGregor 1966; Reeves and Dormaar 1972;Yanicki 1999) have been based. While previous researchers have been pessimistic about the probability of any trace of the rock alignment observed by Fidler and Dawson remaining intact,the landform examined in these studies—a treed and partially bulldozed terrace six meters above the Oldman River’s banks—does not compare favourably with the historic descriptions of the site’s location. On more careful reading, a potentially matching landform can still be seen today.This low-lying flat in the middle of the Oldman Gap is clear of the road construction that marks the terrace above it; a review of the available hydrologic data for the Upper Oldman basin to evaluate local flood frequency,severity,and processes of landform formation suggests this to be a floodplain where slackwater sediments are deposited during overbank events. If located on this landform, it is possible that rather than being washed away, the playing ground could instead have been buried.This low terrace has, however, not previously been archaeologically tested. To help demonstrate the antiquity of this landform, or conversely to demonstrate its recent origin, a geomorphic pilot study was conducted in the fall of 2009 focusing on the collection of buried plant macrofossils and charcoal for 14 C radiometric analysis.The results 62 LANDFORM IDENTIFICATION & GEOMORPHIC ASSESSMENT of this pilot study, also discussed in this chapter, indicated the possible presence of strata on of sufficient age to contain a pre-contact archaeological site, and warranted further investigation .The methods and results of the subsequent archaeological testing of this landform undertaken in the summer of 2010,which proved negative for prehistoric cultural materials, and causes of error in identifying ancient strata, are presented in Chapter 4. Historic descriptions of site location Of the two firsthand historic observations of the playing ground, the more comprehensive of the two is Fidler’s account (HBCA E.3/2, fo. 17). Following the Oldman River up to the feet of the Livingstone Range and into the heart ofThe Gap,Fidler provided numerous topographic references aimed at specifying the precise location of the playing ground. Starting from his party’s arrival on the Oldman’s north bank, Fidler wrote, We then crossed over the river to the South side, as it was not possible any farther on the North on account of the high hills & woods.When we crossed over the river, which was not froze over ... we set off altogether to [the Ktunaxa’s] tents which was upon the Bank of this river a little way within the Mountain.At the side of the river at the entrance into the Mountain very high, steep perpendicular rocks.Went along the South side of the river within the MountainWSW ½ mile & took Sextant reading. Then continued our way close along the bank of the river which is very rocky but a narrow bare pass Betwixt the water & the high perpendicular rocks of the Mountain, S 1/3 of a Mile.A place here called Naw peu ooch eta...