The Old North Trail which ran through the foothills along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains was utilized by aboriginal groups for more than a thousand years before John Palliser and George M. Dawson noted it in their surveys of Alberta. The trail connected the lands which eventually became Alberta and Montana. A thorough surveyor, Dawson recorded stream crossings, wooded groves, and landmarks on his map of 1886. The trail led to important sources of animals and plants (herbs, lodge pole pines, berry bushes) which sustained the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) nations of Piikani, Kainai and Siksika tribes. The area is also rich in spiritual significance and oral traditions.
While working towards her PhD in Archaeology, Lindsay Amundsen-Meyer gathered archived reports prepared by previous archaeologists which noted habitation, hunting and spiritual sites in the vicinity of the ancient travel route Dawson identified on his maps. She and several volunteers from several branches of the Alberta Archaeological Society, including Lethbridge, hiked many miles is search of 86 sites and Dawson’s landmarks in a specific area between Longview and Claresholm. When they found the sites she noted the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. Once entered into the computer the location of the sites in relation to the Old North Trail became evident. Including volunteers in her research was a great way for interested archaeological enthusiasts to learn about and help preserve important historic resources.
Amundsen-Meyer and her team discovered many of the sites included ancient encampments, rock alignments, and glacial erratics with petroglyphs painted onto the stone surfaces which Lindsay georeferenced. She discovered the ancient travellers use of the Old North Trail related to spiritual sites as well as to areas rich in water, wood, plants and animals which provided food, clothing, tools and shelter.
This is just one of many stories in Lethbridge. The Galt Museum & Archives holds many historical treasures about our community. Take some time to visit the Galt Museum’s permanent exhibit in Discovery Hall or simply visit http://www.galtmuseum.com.