Saskatchewan‘s Archaeological Cemeteries
This is Part 3 of a 7 part series
The Heritage Property Act oversees the burials not found in a registered cemetery. On discovery of an historical burial site, the Minister is contacted as well as the appropriate agency, church or church historical documents, Indian band, First Nation or Euro-Canadian descendants before any archaeological excavations would be considered. To confirm land ownership, information can be obtained from the Provincial land registry through Information Services Corporation (ISC). The “Central Burial Site” along the South Saskatchewan River has been established for respectful internment of ancient First Nations burials where appropriate and under consultation with appropriate interest groups to determine final re-burial. Here rest over 200 interments. “This is considered a very sacred burial ground to First Nations,” says Carlos Germann director of Saskatchewan’s heritage conservation branch, “unique in that it accommodates all different tribal affiliations.” If the burial site is not threatened or in jeopardy, the site is recorded, and restored. In the case of a discovered homestead burial, similar legal decisions are made regarding the burial site preservation or removal and relocation to a local cemetery. In Saskatchewan, if the soil is disturbed, a permit is required in Saskatchewan. Approximately five to fifteen archaeological burial sites are found each year.
Swift Current is south east of the Gray cemetery examined between 1970 and 1974 and documented in Quaternary Dates and Verebrate Faunas in Saskatchewan by R.E. Morlan,R. McNeely, S.A. Wolfe, and
B.T. Schreiner. In this pre-historic site, 304 interments were found here dating back 3,000 to 5,000 years. The Gray Cemetery, a National Historic Site, is part of the Oxbow Culture, a part of the Middle Precontact Period..
Archaeological study reveals vital cultural, architectural, spiritual and societal histories. The forgotten cemetery of the St. Vital Parish (1879-1885) located on the Battle River near Telegraph Flat, North West Territories was established in 1877. Telegraph Flat was later named Battleford. Following the 1885 North West Rebellion, the Roman Catholic Mission of St. Vital chose the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) Cemetery near Fort Battleford and later, the Town of Battleford Cemetery This meant that the original cemetery abandoned, and the location forgotten till its discovery in 1999. A meticulous archaeological survey uncovered mortuary practices, spiritual and cultural customs, health and disease, artifacts, and rituals providing an in-depth documentary of the early history of the Oblate priests, the community and the 19th century Battleford area. The names of those interred was derived from parish registers, national, provincial and municipal archive records, Battleford’s North West Historical Society and newspaper accounts. The extensive archaeological research was compared to the records held by the Parish register. Similar archaeological investigation was applied at the Industrial School Cemetery at Battleford, and the two sites studies were compared. A reburial cemetery was held in 2002, and commemorative marker erected in 2003.
Near Canora, Saskatchewan, the Doukhobor Cemetery of Besednoye village was excavated and studied in detail by archaeological investigation. Seventeen interments were found here, and according to Jon Kalmakoff, eight of these have been identified.
The third archaeological cemetery studied in Saskatchewan was the Nisbet Presbyterian Cemetery discovered in 2004. Between 1866 and 1874 twenty-one interments took place at the Nisbet Mission cemetery. “The examination of cemeteries proffers valuable, multi-faceted information pertaining to the past,” writes Lisa Marie Rudolph in, An Osteological and Historical Examination of the Presbyterian Forest Centre Cemetery Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, “the comprehensive nature of burial and cemetery projects necessitate the involvement of local interest groups and specialists for the study to be successfully completed in a considerate manner.” A re-burial ceremony was held the following year at the South Hill Cemetery in Prince Albert.
Communities benefit from historical areas of historic and aesthetic value which bear “a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared” and can be protected under the Heritage Property Act. The Heritage Conservation Branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport (TPCS) has published the Guide to Preparing a Provincial Heritage Property Nomination. As such, “Heritage property is broadly defined as any property that is of interest for its architectural, historical, cultural, environmental, archaeological, palaeontological, aesthetic or scientific value and includes archaeological and palaeontological objects.” Under such designation and protection an historic cemetery would be listed in the provincial Heritage Conservation Branch’s Saskatchewan Register of Heritage Property and the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
The Globe and Mail reported that in 2008 the National Archives records were reviewed to locate cemeteries, and burial sites near Indian Residential Schools or IRS churches. Amongst these is the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery, located on the west side of Pinkie road, unmarked but for a wooden fence. The Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee ”believes that actions should be taken to develop recommendations to ensure that the site of the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery be suitably and appropriately recognized.”
- Part 1 Cemetery Preservation: Preserving Landscapes of Memories
- Part 2 Cemeteries, the silent historian
- Part 3 Archaeological Cemeteries
- Part 4 Recording and Memorialising
- Part 5 Cemetery Vacations
- Part 6 Save our Saskatchewan Cemeteries
- Part 7 Heritage Cemeteries listing
- Additional Resources
Moon Fleur ~ Luna Rose by Julia Adamson
- Cranial deformation discovered in 1000 year old Mexican cemetery (sott.net)
- Deformed skulls discovered in 1,000-year-old Mexican cemetery (io9.com)
- 18 dec. 2012: Unique Burial Practice of Bali Aga Community at Trunyan (ubudtaxibali.wordpress.com)
- Arlington Cemetery debuts new interactive map (wjla.com)
- Photos: Nighttime Cemetery Tour in Lima, Peru (photos.mercurynews.com)
- Jewish graveyard in France to become ‘interactive’ (timesofisrael.com)