The Famous Five

We would be remiss if we didn’t bring up the Famous Five who worked on the “Persons Case” to see women recognized as persons under the British North America Act. These women are Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby, and Louise McKinney, all of whom made Alberta their home at some point in their lives.

Under the British North America Act (BNAA, originating in 1867), women were not eligible for rights and privileges, and thus were not considered “persons” in the full legal sense of the word. Although Emily Murphy was appointed an Alberta magistrate in 1916, her first role as judge was challenged by a lawyer because under the BNAA, she was not a “person”. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that in 1917 the Supreme Court of Alberta ruled that women were, in fact, persons. However, this was not effective all over Canada. When Emily Murphy was put forward as a candidate to be a Canadian Senator, Prime Minister Robert Borden could not approve the appointment, due to the BNAA (1867).

But Emily Murphy found a loop hole. A provision in the Supreme Court of Canada Act states that any five persons acting as a unit has the right to petition the Supreme Court for clarification of a constitutional point. So in Edmonton, August 27, 1927, Emily hosted a tea party! Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby, and Louise McKinney added their names to the letter petitioning the Supreme Court, which later became known as the “Persons” case. Their question was to clarify if the word “person” in section 24 of the BNAA includes women as “qualified persons” for being a Senator.

The_Valiant_Five_StatueBy User Thivierr on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Representation of their first meeting. Located in downtown Calgary. Photo credit: User Thivierr on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The outcome was devastating to women across the country. On March 14, 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that because the qualifications of a Senator were written in the BNAA with the pronoun “He”, this excluded women as qualified persons. Thankfully, since Canada was not fully independent from Britain, there was one more authority higher than the Supreme Court: the Privy Council in England. The Famous Five took their petition across the ocean, and on October 18, 1929, the Privy Council ruled in favour of women as persons. The representative, Lord Chancellor Sankey went on to say that to exclude women from public offices was outdated and barbarous. This ruling, of course, had resounding effects on women’s rights, and those who tried to suppress them.

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Emily Murphy displays the verdict, as part of the Valiant Five, downtown Calgary. Photo credit: Cara Tremain

Individually, all five women were formidable champions for the rights and welfare of women and children. In addition, they represented several firsts in the political sphere. Emily Murphy was the first female magistrate in the British Empire. Irene Parlby was elected as MP of the Lacombe riding for 14 years, and was the first female Cabinet minister in Alberta. Nellie McClung was a novelist and journalist, whose efforts formed part of the social and moral reforms in Western Canada in the early 1900s. Her efforts saw Manitoba become the first province that granted women the right to vote and run for office in 1916. Louise McKinney was the first woman to be elected into the Alberta Legislature, and as a result, the first female Member of any Legislative Assembly in the British Empire. Henrietta Muir Edwards was a legal expert, and helped found the National Council of Women of Canada in 1893, which still operates today.

Sometimes you just can’t win!

Digging in the forest we are always encountering tree roots. It’s a great test when you miss them all. Most days your shovel is sharp enough that you hardly notice the roots as the shovel blade slices through them. Sometimes you have layers of roots, which work as a group to form a wall. You can “smash” through them with a bit of effort, one root at a time. And then there are days like pictured here! Your shovel just won’t go through or you don’t have the energy to “smash” through them, so you have to break out the big guns! I like to carry a folding saw with me in my vest, so roots like these won’t get the better of me! Unfortunately these ones did. So I just dug around them.

Can you find the flakes?

It’s not all sand, toothbrushes, and dust pans for consulting archaeologists. More often than not we find ourselves digging on aluvial fans. In other words, gravel bars created by glaciers, or even old beach shores. That doesn’t mean gravel is sterile. How many flakes can you find in this screen?

Scroll down to find out if you found them all!

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Autumn colours

The leaves are quickly changing their colours into their beautiful fall reds, yellows, and even browns. This usually marks our annual crunch as we try to complete all our fieldwork before the snow falls! Here Alex is testing out a site we found for Alberta Plywood in the Marten Hills, near Slave Lake, AB.

Helicopter Access

On occasion accessing our target areas is simply not possible by truck, ATV, or foot.  At least, not in a timely manner!  So bring in the helicopters!  They certainly bring a whole new perspective to the topography, and how our small target areas fit into the general landscape.  This particular project was for AlPac, up in the Conklin area.

The Brazeau Reservoir Archaeological Survey Project

The Brazeau Reservoir Archaeological Survey is a project hosted by the Strathcona Archaeological Society, and is sponsored by Tree Time Services. It currently is centred around a large campsite and workshop on the upper valley margin at the confluence of the Brazeau and Elk Rivers, located near Drayton Valley and Rocky Mountain House.

The main site, FfPv-1, was found in 2009 by Sandy and Tom Erikson while out on a day hike. They contacted the Royal Alberta Museum to report their finds, and the site was visited by curators Jack Brink and Bob Dawe in 2013. They conducted an exploratory survey with Sandy and Tom, and found five additional sites, FfPv-2 to 6. These sites are all located around the edge of the upper water lines of the Brazeau Reservoir, and are covered by water for most of the year.

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Jack and Bob brought these sites to the attention of the Strathcona Archaeological Society as an opportunity to engage with the society’s members through the practice of archaeology. What made these sites perfect to use for a volunteer project is that all the sites were identified by the artifacts found on the surface, thanks to the reservoir water that slowly stripped the soil away. This meant that volunteers could learn how to spot the artifacts sitting on the surface.

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In 2015, Madeline Coleman, one of our Permit Archaeologists, co-organized the pilot volunteer project with another SAS member, Amandah van Merlin. Volunteers travelled across FfPv-1 to figure out the site’s extent, and what type of site it was. Survey of the landforms around FfPv-1 found three new sites!! Volunteers also found projectile points that crossed almost the entire expanse of Alberta Precontact history. The cultural phases represented include Clovis, Agate Basin, Hell Gap, Oxbow, and Plains Corner-notch.

 

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Based on the location of the sites, it is very likely that the sites are located around the whole reservoir! The construction of the reservoir began in 1910, long before developments in Alberta were examined for impacts to archaeological resources. Currently, many of the sites recently identified are only accessible by boat.

A new survey with test excavation units are planned for May 28th and 29th. To register or for more information, email Madeline at [email protected]

Oxbow Dart Point

Today’s picture is brought to you from the Peace River Trail. It is a nearly-complete Oxbow dart point, made of a medium-grained quartzite. Dart points are larger than arrow-heads and were used on long spears that were thrown using an atlatl. The atlatl gave the thrower extra force than when using a spear. An Oxbow point is recognized by it’s “Micky Mouse ears” that form the base of the point, and is one of the most easily identifiable point types. The Oxbow Phase dates between 4500 and 4100 BP (Before Present), and is part of Alberta’s Middle Precontact Period.