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Module 4 Interpretation and Presentation of the Archaeological Heritage

An Evaluation of The Historic Reesor Ranch

Submitted by Claude-Jean Harel Reference Number: 170

June 17, 2002

Introduction The Historic Reesor Ranch is one of those heritage sites that fascinate visitors because they are still in use by the descendants of their builders. This is a working cattle ranch with roots in the Frontier economy of Western Canada. It is also a guest ranch where visitors can experience authentic life ways for one day, one week or more. This is a fivegeneration family run business that is adjusting to the economic pressures that are affecting ranching life on the Great Plains in the face of the contemporary forces of globalization. The strategy currently favoured by the present owners to ensure the longterm sustainability of the operation is to turn to tourism - in this case defined as the creation and marketing of new heritage-based indigenous value-added products and experiences (figures 1-4). The success of this hinges on the vision of the two current owners Scott and Theresa Reesor. Scott is the great grandson of the man who developed the ranch: William D. Reesor. He is a cowboy and a poet who perpetuates the traditions of ranch life in the Great Plains. Theresa, Scotts wife and partner, is the resident heritage interpreter and marketer. She lovingly researches the past using her inquisitive mind and the collection of artefacts and documents her and her husband inherited from the previous generations of occupants. After years away from the Ranch, Scott and Theresa were offered the opportunity to take over a significant portion of the original family land spread along with some of its most archaeologically significant structures. It became clear to them as it had to Scotts mother - who had turned the house into a bed and breakfast prior to their arrival - that the ranchs history, standing buildings, various cultural features and landscape constituted invaluable assets to be exploited in a way that would allow the operation to remain in essence a working ranch for the years to come. They proceeded to gather photographs, maps, and any historical documents that would shed light on past human use the property. Scotts father, Keith, chronicled his life on the ranch in his anecdotal writings (Reesor 2000) and articulated the principle that transpires throughout the interpretive activities of the ranch: ranchers see themselves as stewards of the land and its resources, their approach to heritage preservation is characterized more by instinctive or common sense cultural resource management practices rather than by any systematic master planning exercise. Remarkably, they have been successful so far, given that they have no formal archaeological training. To their credit, they have welcomed wholeheartedly my inquisitive forays into the universe known to them as home. Aims and Objectives This evaluation is an appreciation of the current and potential interpretive aspects of the Historic Reesor Ranch as a heritage site. Much research remains to be done, but it has 2

become apparent that the Reesor Ranch constitutes one of the finest examples of the first generation of family-run ranches that succeeded to the era of the large ranching companies that dominated the Canadian West until the early 20th century (figures 5-8). It could be argued that a visit at the Historic Reesor Ranch leaves the impression that the demise of these large ranching companies that grazed cattle over areas covering hundreds of kilometres in distance during the early 20th century was in part due to the inability of the operators to establish quickly enough adequate systems of communications and settlement that could keep up with cattle industry growth on the Canadian frontier. Perhaps, the most blatant example of this is the impact of a series of freak snowstorms that killed half the Saskatchewan herds and crippled the entire cattle industry by 1906 (Evans 1999). Key to the operational success of these family ranches were their ability adapt quickly to market pressures, environmental conditions, along with the development of cooperative strategies between households that allowed these ranching families to thrive in an environment of isolation (see Appendix 1 for a description of the Cypress Hills environment). Our intent here is to provide the current owners interpretive models of analysis and interpretation that complement and build on the vernacular ones being offered at present at the ranch (figures 9-15). Historical Overview Ranching came into being on the Great Plains because an industrializing Europe that could no longer produce enough meat to feed its increasingly urban population gave the cattle industry the impetus it needed. A number of factors influenced this growth from an industry point of view. After 1879, refrigerated ships provided new and cheaper means of transporting meat to markets, and the building of the CPR Railway in 1883 created the necessary link that would allow the Cypress Hills to leave the periphery of the investment frontier (Potyondy 1995). It is on this wave of industry growth that the Markham Ranching Company was formed just after the turn of the Century in Markham Ontario. At the time, William D. Reesor owned a farm where he raised registered Jersey cows. Him and his wife Alice had four sons. Times were hard and they had no room for expansion (Bradshaw 1959). The Markham Ranching Company was looking for a manager for its outfit of 600 heads of cattle in the Cypress Hills. William D. Reesor took the job and moved his wife and children to the Hills. For the first year all went well for the Markham Ranching Company. Then on Saturday night in May, 1903, it started to snow. It didnt stop until Tuesday night, but Wednesday the sun shone from a cloudless sky. The thick snow blew off the hills, leaving them bare for grazing, but it piled up in the coulees. The ranchers

rode the cattle out of the coulees for safety, but that same night the storm started again (Bradshaw 1959). When that second storm was over on Friday night, the losses were devastating: The cattle had been driven back into the snow chocked coulees where they smothered. There were as many as 200 dead animals in one pile The Markham ranching Company lost 350 head, sustaining a loss of more than 50%. Day old calves, with their dead mothers beside them, had survived only to die of starvation. (Bradshaw 1959). It would be the end of the Markham Ranching Company. William Reesor then made arrangements to run the remainder of the cows privately and homesteaded with his two eldest sons on a square mile and a quarter of land in the Hills. This would be the start of a new exciting period of economic activity: Rising prices and access to the Chicago market led to expansion during the next decade. Indeed, the number of beef cattle in the province (Saskatchewan) rose from 360,000 to almost 900,000 between 1906 and 1921 (Evans 1999). The backbone of this industry would be the producers themselves; the families that ran ranches, large and small, and devised cooperative strategies that would eventually allow them to thrive through initiatives that survive to this day (figures 16-20). The Working Ranch as Living Museum and Learning Resort Let it be said that the Cypress Hills are a popular tourist destination. Most of the tourism visits that occur in the region are to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, encompassing significant portions of the most wooded land and lakes favoured by seekers of resort experiences, camping and recreational vehicle owners. The Park has recently been enjoying a 5% growth in visitation annually (Mason 1998). Most this growth has occurred in the Centre Block of the Cypress Hills. Some of it has occurred in the West Block at Fort Walsh National Historic site. Generally, the growth has occurred in sites accessible by paved road and near more mainstream tourism facilities. Increased tourism pressure in those sections is forcing Park authorities to monitor impacts on the natural environment. Cultural heritage sites remain largely unaffected, as few archaeological sites are open to the public. The Historic Reesor Ranch is a private facility that caters to visitors with more specialized interests than the majority of visitors to the Hills. A sign on the main highway across Canada (the Trans-Canada Highway) indicates to would be guests that the ranch is located 32 kilometres to the south. The access road (Graburn Road) is a gravel road that has played a central part in the Communications network of the Hills since the North 4

West Mounted Police started policing the area during the 1870s (Surveys and Mapping Branch 1888). There is a remote quality about the ranch that adds to the experience of those who travel there (figures 21-25). The Reesors ideal guests are families, individuals and groups in search of authentic Western experiences ranging from an overnight stay at the ranch house, to group functions and stays at the barn with sleepover in the loft. As a value-added experience, guest may take part in traditional ranching activities such as brandings, feedings and roundups on horseback. Year of Activity 1998 1999 2000 2001 Table 1 Turning the ranch into a heritage tourism destination has had significant impacts on activities at the ranch, which has required internal adjustments. The Reesors now discourage drop in guests from arriving without reservations. Unexpected guests tend to disrupt ranching operations, as well as the experience that is being staged for scheduled guests. An on-going community awareness campaign educates members of the surrounding communities of the importance of regulating access to the site for its preservation and the economic sustainability of the tourism operation. One of the orientations the Historic Resoor Ranch now pursues is to move away from bed and breakfast stays to concentrate on richer western experiences that involve a stay and more formal heritage interpretation activities. This has had an impact on the volume of overall guests (table 1) but a favourable influence on the quality of the experience stages for the guests and the revenue earned. The ranch compound is rich in built heritage. The ranch house is an imposing two-story double side-gabled bungalow built in 1916 with two gabled dormer windows on the front (fig.14). It incorporates an earlier house built in 1906 (fig. 13) from materials used on other buildings. When the bigger house was built, many of the original elements such as doors were reused. The other materials were brought in from Maple Creek, the main town serviced by the railroad located 50 kilometres away. They were brought in on a horsedrawn wagon on steel wheels. The most striking feature of the house apart from the richness of its architecture - is that it was designed to accommodate two families: William D. Reesor and his wife, and their son Frank and his new wife. Both families shared the second floor where six large bedrooms are located. A grand central staircase provided shared access to the floor, but two smaller private staircases allowed access to each of the families respective kitchen and living room areas (figures 26-35). 5 Overnight Visitors 175 355 314 350 Other Visitors 40 80 400 150 Total Visitors 215 435 714 500

The parents side of the house (William D. and Alice) had the largest living room. This living room became at times the centre of social activities for the surrounding townships. Franks mother (Alice) used to hold Red Cross dances in the spacious house, and both girls and boys used to ride horseback as far as 25 or 30 miles to attend the dances. In winter they would take a four-horse team and a sleigh and load in 20 or 30 passengers, starting at Six Mile Coulee and gathering them up on the way to the Reesor Ranch. The music was provided by a home grown orchestra, and it started at eight in the evening and stopped at sunrise, after which everyone stayed for breakfast. (Bradshaw 1959) Alice and Hazel (Franks wife) had a shared sewing room halfway between the two kitchens. William D. (the father) had his own office area that would double as the smoking room for the house. This is where an interpretive visit of the ranch usually starts. The Reesors proudly display artefacts that range from prehistoric periods (projectile points, flakes, scrapers, stone mauls with pecked groove) to historical period artefacts like the branding irons used by the Markham Ranching Company. In the case of prehistoric artefacts, interpretive information is rather limited due to the loss of contextual information. The artefacts were often collected during the course of ranch expansion and their extraction was not documented. Though every effort is made by the Reesors to incorporate a First Nations component to the visits, at the moment there is noticeable interpretive weaknesses in the presentation, due in the authors opinion to the lack of direct involvement from local First Nations in the development of the interpretive content. The Reesors are conscious of this and are currently working to enhance the aboriginal component though initiatives such as allowing First Nations artists to collect raw lithic material on their land for the manufacture of projectile point replicas that are displayed within the ranch house. This is of particular importance to Theresa because she has aboriginal ancestry herself. The historical period artefacts, on the other hand, benefit from the support of the collective memory of the entire Reesor family and from the presence of the actual ranch structures themselves. There is a rectangular bunkhouse/blacksmithing shop/garage that was used as living space while the original homestead building was being built (fig. 17). To the east, a spacious stone lined root cellar (fig. 35) lies next to the house with enough room in it to store the massive quantities of vegetables produced in the tree-lined garden behind the house. North of the house, a substantial farm building has housed horses and a variety of animals. In addition to the animals, it contains farm implements and machinery, a tack storage area, various indoor pens a newly converted multipurpose room used for social functions. The main barn building was built out of square logs a century ago. The network of exterior pens and cattle handling gates and chutes is still in use today. The 6

infrastructure has evolved since the days William D. Reesor, his wife Alice and their children arrived here, but the succession of generations has built upon the previous ones in a manner that allows the earliest evidence of ranching to transcend the ages. For instance, the brand used by the Markham Ranching Company, was acquired by the William D. Reesor when he gained possession the Companys assets. He freely used it as his own and made sure it became an integral part of his operation by displaying it prominently and permanently as an imprint in the cement used to build the fireguard in front of the fireplace in his office (fig. 32). It is in this office the Reesors display the certificate of incorporation of the Markham Ranching Company, the Homestead Statutory Declaration and other artefactual evidence associated with the origins of the Reesor Ranch, such as the original blueprints of the house drafted by a Calgary architect (fig. 34). A brief visit of the house with Theresa will reveal a wall from the original homestead dwelling that was incorporated into the larger house. Visitors are constantly reminded of the climatic rigours of the Cypress Hills. Theresa shares how the wood cladded walls proved to be inefficient in preventing heat loss during the harsh winter conditions; and how an attempt to improve this by adding a layer of stucco on top of the wood proved ineffective to remedy the situation. Radiators would freeze and crack regularly, causing much grief to the settlers. The owners eventually realized that the problems required more than making the structure airtight. Key to the issue was the lack of air trapping mechanisms within the wall structure itself. Eventually, a form of synthetic foam insulator was injected in the walls by drilling holes from the outside (Reesor 2002). These holes are still visible and the house is much warmer today. Following the orientation provided by Theresa, it becomes evident that guests/visitors are expected to do some homework at the house if they wish to push their inquiry further. The gallery of evidence is the house itself. The documents are on the walls; the artefacts are in the display cases. Theresa makes sure that every guest knows enough about the house to navigate their way through the posted documentation, but guests are also expected to show some initiative. This is easy to do. The rooms where the guests stay are themed after one of the first three generations of occupants of the ranch. There is the William D. and Alice Room, the Frank and Hazel Room, the Keith and Helen Room. Each room displays artefacts that illustrate life on the frontier, the challenges and the joys. In the shared space on the second floor and in the rooms, the horse figures prominently in these displays as one of the chief instruments of communications in this remote setting, but also as a source of traction and pride. The horse allowed men to bring home the herd of cattle, to round up the calves, to patrol the range for predators, cattle rustlers or simply to ensure that they had not strayed onto another pasture. The horse saved ranchers both time and energy. Whether they were draft horses, cutting horses or pleasure riding horses, 7

the ability to travel great distances in the relative comfort of a saddle or of a seat was priceless to quality of life on the frontier. Children who spend the night at the ranch may be invited to stay in the Ranch hands Room, where they will find a number of artefacts interpreting the life of the cowboy: illustrated books, a rope and photographs. Another dimension that is more rarely observed and that figures importantly in the displays at the ranch is the role of women in ranch life. Scott and Theresa have deliberately chosen to give equal attention to womens contribution in a world traditionally dominated by men, by profiling them just as much as their husband (fig. 36). In the room featuring Keith and Helen Reesor, one becomes acutely aware of Helens passion for horses and of her riding abilities as a teenager (fig. 37). Further inquiry reveals that when her family started to grow, she had to set aside horseback ranching activities and to devote more time to household-related activities. However this did not dampen her creative energy, as she still found time to write cowboy (cowgirl) poetry about the homeplace where she grew up nearby. Her writing is proudly displayed (fig. 38). Scott and Theresa have put Helens lyrics to music and will interpret it for guests upon request. 24 hours spent with the Reesor family imprints a vivid sense that if ranching can be viewed first and foremost as an economic activity, the strategies that allowed the players to succeed were strongly influenced by household economic initiatives. Womens contribution is front and centre at the ranch, for they often initiated supplementary economic activities that generated extra income. Alice (wife of William D.) turned to growing trees for reforestation efforts in the Cypress Hills Provincial Forest. An Ideal Setting for the Interpretation of the Evolution of Ranching Activities Previous studies by Bindford (1980), Steffen (1980), Hardesty (1980), Kornfeld (1983) and Buckles (1985) have all provided frameworks and models that are useful in the analysis of ranching activities on the American frontier. None of which figure currently in the informal interpretive programmes in use at the ranch. Kornfeld (1983) has applied Bindfords mapped-on versus logistical subsistence strategies to differentiate between sheep (mapped-on) and cattle (logistical) ranching operations in the way they utilize environmental resources to achieve economic success. Sheep raising involves monitoring the movements of sheep from the bedgrounds, to the grazing and watering areas and back to the bedgrounds. Sheep must be herded at all times to protect them from predators. Kornfeld (1983) argues that this is a mapped-on strategy because sheepherder camps function to map the consumers, sheep, onto the resources, the vegetation and the water.

On the other hand, cattle forage freely over the range travelling 8 to 10 kilometres every few days for water. Cattle herding activities are necessary only when management activities are required: rounding the cows up for breeding time or moving cattle away from coulees during snow storms. Kornfeld (1983) argues that cattle ranching involves a more logistical strategy because the consumer, the cows, are not mapped onto the resource, but rather the resources and their condition are monitored. Fences are checked, as are salt blocks. Kornfeld (1983) shows how efficiencies are gained in rounding up the stock when grazing areas are fenced. Those changes and others affect patterns of human activity and ranching practices. These are stimulated partly by technological evolution hopping on an all-terrain vehicle saves more time than using a horse but they are also influenced by both internal and external forces. To support this, Hardesty (1980) articulates archaeologically a proposal applicable here involving the inherent environmental demand of ranching on the American frontier expressed by Steffen (1980) in a perspective that he conceptualizes: as an ecological community under transformation because of internal forces, such as technological modification or competition, and external forces, such as colonization patterns from outside dispersal centers and progressive integration into regional, national and international economic systems (Hardesty 1980). Keith Reesor describes in his memoirs (2000) how the ranch he grew up on raised not only cattle, but horses, pigs, turkeys and chicken to bring extra income, as it also sold eggs, milk, cream and butter. He points out that the ranch was a diversified operation out of necessity. The ranch compound went through successive transformations in facilities management that reflected the needs of the day. It is believed that the pig barn (now taken down) may have been originally a line camp used by the Markham Ranching Company to monitor resources spread over its 60 kilometre ranch. The spring adjacent to the house was not only used as a source of drinking water but also as a cool storage space for the meats (in glass jars) that were obtained through a cooperative arrangement called a beef ring where a group of 6 ranch families would join together and share one beef. Every ten days, a different member of this group would provide a beef to be killed. Each family would get a different cut of meat every time. This strategy would ensure a constant supply of fresh meat to participating households. Cooperative strategies allowed ranchers to do round ups, brandings and cattle drives together out of necessity. The Walsh Cattle Marketing Association allowed ranchers to work cooperatively to get a better price for their cattle. They financed and built a stockyard where cattle were sold and shipped from Walsh to Ontario. These cooperative efforts allowed ranches to prosper and to clearly impose a signature on the Cypress Hills landscape that is worth examining in some detail. Buckles (1985) alluded to the need to learn how to read the language of the landscape: 9

A farm or ranch is a whole consisting of the environment in which the place exists, which is a composite of the cultural and natural environments and affected by land ownership systems and lines, topography, vegetation, drainage systems, school districts, road systems, grazing districts, water districts, soil conservation districts, leased lands, and other natural and cultural variables. It is necessary to learn and interpret languages around landscapes, farms, and ranches to construct models of the places. The early days of ranching in the Cypress Hills were characterized by poor communications systems. There were no roads, nor fences, no weather forecasts, no phones. The first phone lines linked ranchers to park rangers; they were often strung from tree to tree (Reesor 2000). The rangers would have to relay messages to other ranchers. When the first roads were established, the needs of ranchers who had their own parallel network of trackways and gates between fenced grazing areas were often not taken into consideration. Cattle guards were later integrated to the road system, allowing motorized transportation; yet keeping the cattle within their respective pastures. Brands allowed stray cattle to be retrieved and prevented cattle theft to a certain extent. The network of pens and cattle shoots on individual ranch operations allowed ranchers to reduce labour cost by facilitating cattle handling activities. Meanwhile, households benefited from technological improvements brought about by improved communications. The Reesor household took to ordering all its dry goods from Eatons catalogue through the mail. An order was filled out for everything except perishables. They would be informed when the goods arrived by train for pickup in Walsh (32 kilometres to the north). They would pick them up with a team of horses and wagon or sleigh. That a households success in its ranching economic activities depended on its ability to maintain good relations with neighbouring households can never be overstated. There was always an empty room in the house a stranded neighbour could use. There was always room in the barn to put up his or her horse. A rancher who drove his cattle to the market often arrived with more than he had left with, after having picked some up from another rancher who needed to sell some (Reesor 2000). Interdependence was a key factor to the evolution of the communications networks in the Cypress Hills. Conclusion Many of the models evoked in the above discussion will be conveyed for the first time to the Reesor family through reading this paper. I know that they will read with interest these formulations. One could pick and focus on any number of archaeological features of livestock production and learn a great deal on how, for instance, fences can be symbolic of values social and other (Buckles 1985). Relationships between ranching and 10

non-ranching communities can be examined through their respective perceptions and policies regarding fences. Features such as those used for livestock separations (corrals, chutes, holding pens, cutting pens, squeeze chutes), feeding (bunks, racks, mineral feeders, stack yards), watering (trough, tanks, fenced accesses to streams and ditches), shelter (sheds, shades) and transportation (cattle guards, swinging gates which can be opened from horseback and those that cannot) are valuable sources of information on the evolution of ranching practices. The fact that the Historic Reesor Ranch as committed itself to the sustenance of the ranching lifestyle while opening its range of compatible opportunities within tourism is in itself of archaeological interest. What adaptations will the ranch implement to accommodate a growing flow of visitors? Where will they stay? What impact will that increased traffic have on its facilities? All these questions are currently being addressed as the Reesors plan the future of their operation. Floors in the main house that had a natural wood finish have now been coated with a protective layer of hi-impact resistant varnish as a protective measure against overuse. The Reesors have plans for the construction of new permanent dwellings on the ranch property to accommodate retiring family members and tourists. As important decisions lie ahead for them, a few considerations need to be pointed out. 1. The current living museum approach to the interpretation of the ranching lifestyle favoured by the Reesor is the most vivid way they could have chosen to share that which they have inherited and are striving to keep alive. 2. There is a need to undertake a systematic archaeological evaluation of the operation to adequately record the numerous resources and features of the ranch. 3. It may be opportune for the Ranch to call upon guests in some way to participate in archaeological activities such as recording standing buildings and ranch features as a value-added memorable ranch experience, which allows them to make a useful contribution to the preservation of this heritage site. 4. This contribution by paying guests might not only be recognized in credit being given as the archaeological investigations are published; it might also earn guests a sort of Honorary Ranch hands or a membership certificate to a new Western Heritage Seekers Society 5. The proposed archaeological evaluation will surely prove useful in any further developmental planning on the property, including more comprehensive interpretive activities. The altruistic aims of sharing which has governed the activities of the Reesors over the years surely will surely guide them in choosing the directions best suited to ensure that the Ranch plays a greater part in the interpretation of Great Plains heritage in the future.


Bibliography Agriculture Canada. 1991. Soil Landscapes of Canada: Saskatchewan (LRRC Contribution No. 87-45). Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada. Bindford, L. R. 1980. Willow Smoke and Dogs Tails: Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems and Archaeological Site Formation. American Antiquity Vol. 45, No. 1: 4-20. Bradshaw, M. E. 1959. Cypress Hills Ranch Linked with History. In Herald Magazine. Buckles, W.G. ca.1985. Predictive Models For Small Ranches and Farms of the Rocky Mountain Frontier. Paper given at a Society for Historical Archaeology conference. Denver. Cowie, I. 1993. The Company of Adventurers: Narrative of Seven Years in the Service of the Hudson's Bay Company During 1867-1874. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Evans, S. 1999. The Saskatchewan Range in 1906 and 1921. In Ka-iu Fung (ed.), Atlas of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan. Gayton, D. 1990. The Wheatgrass Mechanism: Science and Imagination in the Western Canadian Landscape. Saskatoon: Fifth House. Gray, J.H. 1967. Men Against the Desert. Saskatoon: Modern Press. Hardesty, D.L. 1980. Historical Sites Archaeology on the Western American Frontier: Theoretical Perspectives and Research Problems. North American Archaeologist Vol. 2(1): 67-81. Hildebrandt, W and Hubner, B. 1994. The Cypress Hills: The Land and Its People. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing. Hind, H.Y. 1971. Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 and of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company. Kelly, L.V. 1980. The Range Men: The Story of the Ranchers and Indians of Alberta. Toronto: Coles. Kooyman, B.P. 2000. Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeological Sites. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.


Kornfeld, M. 1983. A Model of High Plains and Intermountain Stockraising Settlement Systems. North American Archaeologist Vol. 4(1): 51-62. Mason, B. 1998. Personal communication (Superintendent of Cypress Hills Provincial Park). Cypress Hills. Meyer, D. and Walker, E.G. 1999. Glacial Retreat and Population Expansion. In Ka-iu Fung (Ed.), Atlas of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan. Potyondi, B. 1995. In Pallisers Triangle: Living in the Grasslands 1850-1930. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing. Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. 1917. Cummins map (Cypress Hills). Regina Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. 1905. Township Register for Township 7. Regina Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. (year unknown). Map of Rural Municipality #111 (Maple Creek). Regina. Reesor, K. (2000). Memoirs. Walsh: Historic Reesor Ranch. Reesor, S. 1998. A Cowboys Home: Cowboy Poetry by Scott Reesor. Walsh: Historic Reesor Ranch. Reesor, S. 2002. Personnal communication. Cypress Hills. Reesor, T. 2002. Personnal communication. Cypress Hills. Saskatchewan Land Information Services Corporation. Aerial maps of various years. Regina. Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture. ca. 1980. The Cypress Hills: A Natural History. Regina: Government of Saskatchewan. Sauchyn, D. (Ed.) 1993. Quaternary and Late Tertiary Landscapes of Southwestern Saskatchewan and Adjacent Areas. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center. Steffen, J.O. 1980. Comparative Frontiers: A Proposal for Studying the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Surveys and Mapping Branch. 1888. Map Shewing Mounted Police Stations and Patrols Throughout the North-West Territories During the Year 1888. Ottawa: Government of Canada. 13

University of Leicester 2000. Module 4: Interpretation and Presentation of the Archaeological Heritage. Leicester: School of Archaeological Studies. Wood, R. (Ed.) 1998. Archaeology on the Great Plains. Lawrence: University Press Of Kansas.


Appendix 1: The Cypress Hills Landscape The Cypress Hills constitute the point of highest elevation in Canada between the Rocky Mountains to the West and the Appalachians to the East. Their geological origin dates back to the cretaceous when: 100,000,000 years ago, the western highlands, precursors of the western mountain ranges in western North America today were going through various periods of uplift and stability and were barring the western sea from the plains region. During periods of uplift in these highlands, streams of fresh water surged eastward carrying sediments which they deposited over the plains. During periods of stability, the sea invaded the plains from the north and south depositing marine sediments The deposits from both sources were horizontal layers of loose silt, clay, and sand-sized particles which since the time of their deposition have become cemented together in many laces to form sedimentary rocks such as shale and sandstone(Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture).

It is only much later during the Oligocene epoch of the Tertiary period, about 40,000,000 years ago (Hildebrandt & Hubner 1994; Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture) that streams from the mountains washed gravels, pebble and sand-sized particles and deposited them in a large fan-shaped cap of up to 170 meters in thickness over the softer previously-deposited layers, topping this large plateau. Over a period of time the particles were cemented by a matrix of sand and calcium carbonate to form a conglomerate which is revealed in the Adams Lake and Battle Creek areas of the West Block. (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). It is believed that with time, the large plateau that existed then over south-western Saskatchewan was eroded in great part from the north and south sides by the pre-glacial ancestors of the South Saskatchewan and Milk River drainage systems. The area where the Cypress Hills are located now was spared only because it was too far away from either of the rivers to be subject to further erosion (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). It is also useful to note that: During the last phase of the Pleistocene ice age which ended about 15,000 years ago, the advancing ice never rose above the 4,500 foot (1372 meters) height of the plateau. An 80 square mile Nunatak at the higher west end of the plateau stood above the ice sheet and remained unchanged by glaciation. However, the remainder of the plateau shows the effect of the ice cover. Meltwater channels were cut to drain the water from the receding glacier. Today these channels are


dry or are occupied by small streams (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). The Cypress Hills are now characterized by a narrow east-west band of upland measuring 135 kilometres by 35 kilometres straddles the Alberta- Saskatchewan border and encompasses some of the most spectacular landscape forms of the North American Great Plains region. If numerous coulees and valleys make the area appear hilly, the Cypress Hills are actually a dissected flat-topped plateau covering an area of approximately 1600 square kilometres (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). Two valleys running in a north-south direction divide the plateau into three segments (East, Centre and West). The hills form a divide between the waters which flow south to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississipi-Missouri River system and the waters which flow northward (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). It is not surprising then that such a striking landscape would generate particular climatic conditions: Due to its high elevation, the climate of the Cypress Hills contrasts with that of the surrounding prairie. Long cold winters and short, warm summers are similar, but temperatures are cooler and precipitation, including snowfall, is greater in the hills. Increased precipitation and lower temperatures lower the rate of evaporation allowing more moisture for plant growth. This favours the growth of forest, especially on the northern slopes (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). Clearly then, the Cypress Hills imposed environmental conditions that influenced settlement and warranted region specific adaptations which at times worked in favour and at other times against human inhabitants. The most enticing one of which for the cattlemen and women engaged ranching activities was the abundance of springs that would guarantee the necessary supply of water for raising cattle. On the other hand, the landscape also imposed logistical and communications challenges to individual operations.


Appendix 2: Human utilization of the Cypress Hills through the ages On the Great Plains, a height of land such as the Cypress Hills has an almost magnetic appeal for travellers current and past. We can only speculate on the reasons for this. The Hills break the monotony of the Plains. They are endowed with mystery perhaps because they are hard to map out visually for the human mind. Two environments intermingle. The first one is the bench, what the local ranchers call the height of land that gently rises to the apex of the Hills, where the finest grazing can be found. The other is that of the deep valleys that cut up the bench, providing shelter and water to animals and humans alike. Ranching activities require a combination of the use of both of these environments in timely fashion. The Cypress Hills of South-western Saskatchewan and South-eastern Alberta have hosted a succession of mobile and permanent human communities during the last few thousands of years. These were attracted to the area by a number of factors favouring human habitation and economic activities (Potyondi 1995; Cowie 1993; Hildebrandt & Hubner 1994). They can be summarized as access to fuel, water, a reliable source of food and raw materials to support a variety of cultural and settlement systems, including an abundance of fur-bearing animals and building materials for fences and dwellings. Projectile points of the Angostura (ca. 8,000 B.P.), Folsom (ca. 11,000 B.P.), Alberta Complex and Cody Complex (Scottsbluff and Eden: ca. 8,500) and Agate Basin and Hell Gap (ca. 10,500-9,500) traditions have been found in and around the area of the Cypress Hills suggesting Paleo-Indian Period occupation (Meyer and Walker 1999). The first European visitors are believed to have been Peter Fiddlers voyageurs who ventured south from the South Saskatchewan River in the early 1800s gathering pitch to waterproof their canoes. A later expedition sponsored by the British government in 1859 brought Captain John Palliser in the area to conduct scientific investigations. He was more taken by the fine timber in the forest regions, the many fresh springs and creeks, and the abundance of game than by the surrounding plains which he described as a large inland desert of no use for settlement (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). Soon, the Mtis, moving west ahead of the influx of white settlers, began wintering in the eastern part of the Cypress Hills in the late 1860s and early 1870s (Cowie 1993). It didnt take long for the Europeans to come back and capitalize on the fur trade. In 1871-1872, Isaac Cowie operated a Hudson Bay Company trading post at the east end of the Cypress Hills. He noted how the Hills had been a neutral ground, which the hostile tribes of the surrounding country feared to enter for hunting purposes. Consequently, it had become a game preserve occupied mainly by elk and grizzly bears (Cowie 1993).


Treaty 4 and Treaty 6, signed respectively in 1874 and 1876 effectively displaced all but one band (Nekaneet) to reservations hundreds of kilometres to the East, thereby opening up the land to European economic activities. In 1880 two farms were established in the hills by the federal government in order to demonstrate agricultural techniques to the Indians. Heavy summer frost proved that the hills were not suited to farming. The same year when John Macoun, the Dominion botanist, visited the area, he stated that he had never seen any place which possessed so many advantages for stock raising. By 1884 several Canadians and Americans, together with English remittance men and retired members of the NWMP force had settled in the Cypress Hills and the Canadian cattle industry had been born (Saskatchewan Parks, Recreation and Culture). The early days of ranching in the Hills were dominated by feats of determination. Wellington Anderson and David Wood brought their cattle out from Manitoba in the early 1890s on a drive that took them two months. John Lindner - born in Germany - and his four sons occupied 72 square miles of leased land in the area. Eventually, ranch homes sprouted along all the creeks flowing north and south from the Cypress Hills (Hildebrandt and Hubner 1994). A number of springs can be found along these creeks, thereby ensuring an abundant supply of water long after the creeks dry up during the summer.


List of Figures


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