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Key Number: HS 44392
Site Name: Writing-on-Stone Glyphs - Provincial Park
Other Names:
Site Type: 1910 - Archaeological Site
2004 - Park

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
1 13 4


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Architectural

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Environment: Writing-on-Stone Park is situated 10 km. south of Highway #501, approximately 42 km, east and south of the Town of Milk River. Archaeological Reserve. c. 385 acres. SW 1/4, south 1/2 of NW 1/4 and pt. of the SE 1/4 of Section 35, Township 1, Range 13; W_M 4. Portion of SW 35, S 1/2 of NE 35, the SE 35 lying S of the Milk River and all that west portion of LSD 7 to the N and W of Sec.35, lying to the north and west of the Milk River, Twp.1, Rge.13, W4M. The area is currently delineated as an Archaeological Reserve in the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. While the site normally has restricted public access (controlled tours only), rodeo grounds were developed within the Reserve by a local riding association and are in heavy use at certain times of the year.
Condition: According to Dewdney's study there are 30 'faces' or pictures located. Of 24 easily accessibly faces 7 are in poor or very poor condition; 13 are in fair or good condition and 4 are in very good or excellent condition. The two faces that are 'fairly accessible' are in excellent condition. The one face that is very difficult to reach is in very good condition. A sign indicates that the carvings are here. Aside from the rodeo grounds, the area is relatively pristine. The rock art panels have suffered some amount of vandalism and natural weathering; however, many good displays still exists.
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History: Selwyn Dewdney, on behalf of the Glenbow Alberta Insitute studied the carvings in the W.O.S. area. He suggests that the older petroglyps may have existed before 1650. On the other hand, the presence of horses and rifles in some scenes indicate carvins was an American Civil Servant named James Doty who reported seeing some petroglyphs in 1855.
These sites provide examples of rock painting and caring in North America. Furthermore, they provide evidence of artistic expression on the part of native peoples from what seems to be a fairy early period.
Some petroglyphs are located at the mouth of Veridigris Coulee, other in Rocky Coulee both places are beyond the Park boundary (on private land).
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Historical Significance:
The carved and painted figures at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park represent the largest cocentration of rock art in Canada; it is one of the most significant petroglyph/pictograph sites in North America.
The rock art has been subject to several intensive studies by scholars of international repute (Dewdney 1964, Habgood 1967, Keyser 1977, Brink 1978). The figures range from standing warriors bearing large shields which date to a time before the horse had reached Alberta; through battle scenes of mounted warriors armed with firearms, to an illustration of the hanging of two human figures by wagon-driving Euro-Canadians. Scenes of hunting and camp life, and of birds and game animals, attest to the rich life and spiritual guardians forming the world of the Plains Indian.
The Writing-On-Stone figures are representitive of more than the mundane world. Stories collected from the Blackfoot indicate the carvings were, and still are, of great religious significance to our Native Peoples. Archaeological investigations also suggest that the area has been reserved for sacred purposes for perhaps as long as 3000 years. The site, a cathedral among the hoodoos, is without comparison and certainly represents one of the finest cultural treasures inherited by modern Albertans. Of secondary though still major importance is the North West Mounted Police post established here in 1887. It is typical of the remote outposts occupied by the force during the transition period when the foundations of our province were laid upon the wilderness. Surpression of smuggling and the whiskey trade, control of the Indians, and assistance to the early ranching and settlement efforts were all duties performed from such lonely outposts. The reconstruction of the post, undertaken by Alberta Parks and Recreation, enhances the enjoyment and significance of the site.
Architectural Significance: The cultural activities of man; the sacred rock art and lonely police outpost, are contained within one of the most impressive visual environments in Alberta. Hidden below the rolling plains, the sandstone cliffs, ring the coulees and river valley of the Milk River.
Here is one of the most extensive tracts of badland hoodoo formations in the province. With few modern intrusions, the landscape enhances the visiters' enjoment of this rich cultural legacy. The fragile nature of the rock art, however, necessitates a very careful management of the environment if this unique site is to be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations of Albertans.
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Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Writing-on-Stone Park is situated 10 km. south of highway #501, approximately 42 km. east and south of the Town of Milk River. Each year thousands of people come from many places to enjoy its magic, enhanced by the topography, North-West Mounted Police history and the ancient, very fragile writings of our earliest peoples. As the numbers of visitors increase each year, so do the demands on the resources, the park staff and the old facilities.
Presently only seasonal interpretive programs provide access into the Archaeological Preserve. No facility of any kind (except for a tiny, unheated Naturalist's office) is available to allow for off-site interpretation, winter programming or the housing of valuable artifacts found associated with the native burial sites or the NWMP's tenure of 30 years.
The 'Story on Stone' could be told twelve months of the year, to school children, old folks, the crippled and blind as well as the fit and able. Our past history is presented at Writing-on-Stone in a beautiful setting. This environment could be enjoyed by more people over a longer period while being better protected by better facilities.
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Writing-on-Stone; Rock Art on the Northwestern Plains by James D. Keyser.
p. 17-18.
...
Two battle scenes warrant detailed description. The petroglyphs at DgOv81 (Fig. 8) show an entire battle involving 115 warriors, their weapons, and equipment. The details in this scene indicate that it represents an actual historic event. Composing the scene are two opposing forces of large numbers of hourglass and rectagular body anthropomorphs. The larger force (to the right) is attacking a large encampment indicated by a camp circle of 24 tipis. Within the encampment are three irregular ovals encircling several anthropomorphs. These ovals apparently are defensive earthwork 'rifle pit' fortifications as are similar representations on Blackfeet hide paintings (MacLean 1894:119, Plate III; Dempsey 1973:11). In the center of the camp is a large tipi with three anthropomorphs inside (Fig. 8a). Scattered throughout the camp are several hundred dots and short dashes representing bullets and other projectiles. A vertical row of 14 flintlock rifles represents the camp's defenders.
The attacking force is composed of 71 anthropomorphs, weapons and horses. The anthropomorphs are hourglass body and rectangular body humans, two of which carry small shields. Six horses at the far right edge of the scene drag travois. Scattered tipis above and below the right part of the scene probably represent the attackers camp. The 28 rifles used by the attackers are flintlocks, identified by the cock and striding steel above the trigger. Lines of dots representing bullets extend from many of the gun barrels. There are three individual combat scenes, each involving two warriors, scattered in the battle scene. One of these, in the approximate center of the panel. (Fig. 8b), shows a large hatchet-wielding man striking down a smaller falling rifleman. Nine bullets extend in a line from the gun barrel past the large warrior's waist, and a dot in the larger man's chest represents a wound. The exaggerated size of this scene, the detail depicted, and its central location - with the rest of the battle apparently structured around it - suggest that this large hatchet-wielding warrior represents the panel's author counting coup (Keyser 1977b). The number of guns and horses in this scene indicate a late historic date for this petroglyph, probably between 1800 and 1850.
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Southern Alberta continues to be 'discovered.' Albertans from Calgary and places north are realizing that Lethbridge is not that near to the Canada / U.S. boundary. Names like Waterton, Writing-on-Stone and Manyberries are becoming familiar. People are leaving the major highways as never before and venturing into forgotten corners of this vast, diverse province.
As this interest and movement increases, it follows that development of these more remote areas will take place. But, will 'progress' ensue? Any change must take into consideration the character and nature of these areas and of the people who have lived there for decades.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is one such place. It is due for upgrading while preserving its character, history and mystique through careful planning, then implementation of the new, innovative ideas attributed to today's earger, talented planners.
Writing-on-Stone Park is situated 10 km south of highway #501, approximately 42 km east and south of the Town of Milk River. Each year thousands of people come from many place to enjoy its magic, enhanced by the topography, North-West Mounted Police history and the ancient, very fragile writing of our earliest peoples. As the numbers of visitors increase each year, so do the demands on the resources, the park staff and the old facilities.
Presently only seasonal interpretive programs provide access into the Archaeological Preserve. No facility of any kind (except for a tiny, unheated Naturalists' office) is available to allow for off-site interpretation, winter programming or the housing of valuable artifacts found associated with the native burial sites or the NWMP's tenure of 30 years.
The 'Story on Stone' could be told twelve months of the year, to school children, old folks, the crippled and blind as well as the fit and able. Our past history is presented at Writing-on-Stone in a beautiful setting. This environment could be enjoyed by more people over a longer period while being better protected by better facilities.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
signed)

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
1981/02/27
Register:
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1991/03/13

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0060
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