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Elders Voices
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Elders' Ancestors

There are many theories about how First Nations came to be pre-historic Alberta. As Arthur Ray states in I Have Lived Here Since The World Began: "Archaeological evidence in fact suggests that the first inhabitants emigrated from Eurasia by crossing the Bering Land Bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska sometime between forty thousand and twelve thousand years ago." The Bering Strait is a piece of land that connected Asia and North America. This land mass is called Beringia. The Bering Strait theory has attracted a lot of archaeological evidence.

That evidence reveals that there were humans in Alberta 11,000 years ago, around the time that the ice-free corridor opened along the eastern foothills of Rocky Mountains. For example, the Clovis point that was discovered near Thorsby is an arrowhead spear-like artifact and is dated at 11,000 years. Additionally, the Folsom point – another arrowhead spear-like artifact – is dated at 10,500 years. The earliest sites in Alberta are Vermilion Lakes, James Pass, and Sibbald Creek. The oldest shelter in Canada is at Vermilion Lakes, and it is dated at 10,500 years. The Bering Strait theory is only one theory.

Examples of other theories are found in First Nations’ oral tradition. These traditions are recounted in an origin myth. Do not be fooled with the use of the word myth. As Peggy Brizinski says in Knots in a String: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada: "Myth can also be used to refer to the sacred truth of a people. A myth is what a group of people believe to be true about the world and their place in it." According to a popular Plains origin myth, Creator created the world with all its beings and then gave the responsibility for caring for all the beings to Weesakayjac. Weesakayjac was to show the beings how to live, but he did not. Eventually, everybody was fighting, because Weesakayjac did not show the beings how to live the right way. The Creator threatened to bring in a flood and finally, after many threats, flooded the entire world. Weesakayjac and three animals survived: Otter, Beaver, and Muskrat. The Creator told Weesakayjac that the world could be created over again. Only the materials that were under the sea could be used to re-create the world. Weesakayjac asked Otter to dive down to the bottom of the sea and Otter was unsuccessful. Next, Weesakayjac asked Beaver to dive down to the bottom of the sea and Beaver was unsuccessful. Finally, Weesakayjac asked Muskrat. Muskrat swam very hard to get to the bottom of the sea and brought back to Weesakayjac a piece of earth in her paw. Muskrat was an unlikely hero, because she was the smallest of all three creatures. Weesakayjac took the piece of earth that contained pieces of wood and bones and re-created the world complete with humans and animals. As a reward, Weesakayjac created lots of roots and rushes for the muskrat.

The origin myth of Weesakayjac and the flood is only one creation story. Different nations and, more specifically, different tribes and bands have greatly varying creation stories.

Sources:
Brizinski, Peggy. Knots in a String: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan Extension Press, 1993.

Ray, Arthur J. I Have Lived Here Since the World Began. Toronto: Lester Publishing and Key Porter Books, 1996.

 


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