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Saamis Site

Medicine Hat

Other Names:
Saamis Archaeological Site

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Saamis archaeological site is located in Medicine Hat, Alberta in the valley of Seven Persons Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan River. Encompassing an area of 36 hectares, this site has been interpreted as a winter/early spring campsite that was intensively occupied repeatedly between A.D. 1390 and A.D. 1820 within the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Periods. It covers two terraces that lie two and three metres of vertical deposits above the modern floodplain. The lower terrace contains evidence of large-scale bison butchering and meat processing activities, while the upper terrace holds evidence of campsite activities represented by a number of campfires (hearths), pits, concentrations of bones and fire broken rock. Artifacts excavated from this site are stored in the Royal Alberta Museum.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Saamis archaeological site lies in its status as an excellent example of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period camping and bison meat processing activities in the Alberta Plains during the winter/early spring.

The Saamis site represents the activities of indigenous Plains culture at the cusp of early contact with Europeans. Based on archaeological investigations that have been conducted between 1971 and 1993, the site has yielded the remains of nine species of prey animals, as well as stone tools, pottery, European trade goods and items of personal adornment. Lack of skeletal articulation among the bison remains at the site suggests that meat processing activities occurred in this location separately and removed from the communal bison hunting area. Among the stone tools, evidence of trade and travel is found in the presence of materials imported from quarries in Montana and North Dakota. Rarer artifacts recovered from the site include glass trade beads, a metal arrow point, bone and shell beads, a shell pendant and pottery.

Sources: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1207); Milne Brumley, Laurie. 1978. "The Saamis Site: A Late Prehistoric-Protohistoric Campsite in Medicine Hat, Alberta" (National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada Paper no. 79. National Museums of Canada: Ottawa).

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Saamis archaeological site reflect its historic and scientific information values and include such features as:
- excellent intact record of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period Plains culture, including information about cultural activities, economies, trade, seasonal settlement patterns and tool technology, especially as it relates to bison meat processing;
- varied occupation activities that include intensive bison meat processing and associated camping activities, which occurred in locations separate and removed from those areas where communal hunting and killing occurred;
- association with a distinctive Plains landscape, including an extensive level terraces within a sheltered creek valley that contains plentiful wood and water resources;
- abundant, well preserved cultural materials that represent a diversity of artifacts and bone remains;
- a rich, artifact record that includes a complete record of all known classes of artifacts from the Late Prehistoric Period, including examples of many stages of manufacture;
- numerous features associated with camping and meat processing activities, including living floors, bone piles, campfires (hearths), pits and prepared and unprepared caches reflecting a diverse range of subsistence activities;
- the presence of relatively rare European trade goods in upper terrace occupations;
- assemblages that include rarer elements of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period Plains culture, including pottery, items of personal adornment and rarer non-bison fauna (eagle, antelope, wolf, fox, bear), which provide valuable information on socio-cultural aspects of planes culture.


Street Address: N/A
Community: Medicine Hat
Boundaries: Lot 8ER, Block 1, Plan 9112245
Contributing Resources: Archaeological Site/Remainss: 1
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
11 (ptn.)
14 (ptn.)
2 (ptn.)
3 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.017132 -110.696328 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1984/07/10

Historical Information

Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Peopling the Land : Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Peopling the Land : People and the Environment
Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Community : Settlement
Industry : Animal Products Processing Facility
Current Function(s):

The Saamis Site is located in the bottom of Seven Persons Coulee. The ready availability of natural resources such as wood, water, and shelter were critical to winter survival and account for extensive use of the area by Plains Indians. According to radiocarbon dating, the winter campsite was occupied in the late 1600s or early 1700s. A major buffalo meat-processing area is situated adjacent to the campsite.

As well as hearths and bone piles, a great variety of artifacts are present. These include stone arrowheads, knives, butchering and skinning tools, drills and other items. The finer items were made from high-quality stone imported from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Bead manufacturing was important at the site; both bone and local red shale were used. A few glass beads and metal arrowheads indicate the beginning of trade with Europeans.

The Saamis Site is archaeologically significant in terms of its date and quality of remains. Very few sites have been discovered which date to the transition period of initial European contact, while the richness of the cultural deposits both in quantity and variety, indicated the site to be of great scientific value.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0185
Designation File: DES 1207
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 22939
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1207)
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