February 21st, 2024

Group looks to preserve pristine stone ‘Medicine Wheels’

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 3, 2022.

The Southeast Alberta Archaeological Society is looking for support from the City of Medicine Hat to preserve a series of "Medicine Wheels," stone circles dating back centuries.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

A series of recently discovered stone circles atop the coulees between Medicine Hat and Redcliff need to be protected, according to members of the local archaeological society.

The cairns, arrangements and a dozen other features created by nomadic tribes throughout southern Alberta, were uncovered two years ago after grass fires along the ridge of what’s called “Upper Burnside.”

A survey was conducted last year by members of the Southeast Alberta Archaeological Society, and at their annual AGM last month, voted to go public with their discovery and plan to lobby the City of Medicine Hat to consider protecting the area.

“It’s really one of the last relatively pristine sites left (near the city),” said SAAS president Bruce Shepard.

“We’re putting out a positive message here to the community, and we would really like the city to consider creating an advisory committee to help understand these better.”

Often called “Medicine Wheels,” they date back well before the arrival of European settlers in the region.

The local ones sit on the flat south of the Trans-Canada Highway, with full view of the river valley and the Cypress Hills in the distance. The group has made requests with First Nations communities in the region to discuss the discovery, but is moving ahead quickly to get the find on record with City of Medicine Hat departments.

The idea of developing Burnside, both the flood plan and elevated area between the city and town, has been an idea floating around since the early 1900s.

The city acquired the land in the early 1990s, and the land with the sites is zoned as Future Urban development (a catchall term for developable, but unspecified, land).

The city’s land department doesn’t list it as a short or mid-term priority, but Sheppard said his group would like to see permanent designation at the specific sites, so their presence isn’t lost to time, and they can be properly considered in planning decisions perhaps decades away.

“There were many, many sites like his around Medicine Hat,” said Shepard. “But many of them are now under subdivisions.”

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