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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 146: Oldman River

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

The Oldman River in southern Alberta flows east from the Rockies, joining the Bow River to form the South Saskatchewan River.

In centuries past, many aboriginal groups crossed paths at the Oldman River. And, as historian Merrily Aubrey points out, the name is based on native legends about an old medicine man who had magical powers.

One source says the name is Cree in origin, and is named after the character We-shuk-e-shack.

It could just as easily refer to the Stoney's Eektomnie, or the Blood and Blackfoot Napi, all of whom possess supernatural powers.

When European explorers surveyed the region, they noted the river's aboriginal name on their maps.

The map that accompanied the Palliser report of the 1860s designated this river as the Oldman or Arrow River.

In the 1800s, the geological surveyor George Dawson noted the Blood name for the feature actually translated into Two Medicine Lodge, which is another really cool name.

Natives travelling into the mountains in the vicinity of the Oldman River did so at great peril, for their route took them through what was known as the Old Man's Playing Ground. And so, they developed a ritual for protection.

In southern Alberta, the Old Man's Playing Ground is marked by several cairns. And these are made from small stones or boulders, and you can find the obscure outlines of rectangles that were formed from larger stones all over this area.

These are located near the point at which the Livingstone River, which is part of the Oldman River system, where it issues from the mountains.

The rock formations and cairns came into being over an extended period of time. Each person that came past there added a stone on these cairns for luck, or so the story goes.

In modern times, the waters of the Oldman River were dammed to provide irrigation for farmers who had settled further downstream.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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