Sponsored by Bodo Archaeological Society
Friday, October 25, 2013 - 7:00pm - 9:30pm
EEOC, located in the Provost Provincial Building
The Bodo Archaeological Society Annual General Meeting will take place on October 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm. George Colpitts, a historian from the University of Calgary, will speak about:
Changing Climates, Human Compromises: the Case of the Neutral Hills and Mild Winters in Alberta’s Fur Trade Era: 1832-34
Alberta’s Neutral Hills stretch north of the Battle River and, throughout much of the Nineteenth Century, marked a boundary between Cree and Blackfoot hunting and war territories. Unlike many plains neutral zones, these landscapes found meaning in the region’s unstable and changing climate. This paper examines journals kept at Fort Pitt, which the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) opened to encourage trade in a territory almost overwhelmed in warfare between Assiniboine-Nakota and Assiniboine-Stoney, Wood and Plains Cree and Blackfoot (Kainai, Siksika and Piikani) who were hunting and launching war parties into the “Carlton Hunting Grounds” to the southwest of present-day Battleford. Eventually closed because of the turmoil in its environs, Fort Pitt traders were nevertheless privy to extraordinary occurrences during the winters of 1833 and 34 which provide a window into the dynamics of climate change and human response to it. During these winters, which were uncharacteristically mild and not sufficiently cold to drive bison into shelter belts above the North Saskatchewan, Cree, Blackfoot and Assinibone brokered a number of seasonal peace agreements and joined in common winter camps around the few dispersed herds still available. Patrick Small, the fort’s clerk, left detailed journal entries of the extraordinary peace playing out in these territories, later referred to and known to the present day as the “Neutral Hills.” Climate change on the northern plains, especially during the period beginning with the Palliser Drought in 1850, is typically associated with increasing competition – and violence – around scarce food resources. The case of Alberta’s Neutral Hills offers a different perspective on human response to changing climate. How regional First Nations brokered compromise, and found the means to cooperate, rather than compete, in difficult climatic circumstances warrants close attention by scholars now studying the various political, economic and social implications and consequences of global warming.