Barney Reeves and Margaret Kennedy have conducted large-scale archaeological inventory of the complex ceremonial stone feature sites located on the horseshoe bend of the lower Red Deer River and at the Forks of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers since 2012. Fieldwork in 2016 was concentrated along the valley walls of the bedrock-incised horseshoe bend of the lower Red Deer River below the Minor Medicine Wheels Ceremonial Complex on the valley edge. Reeves and Kennedy spent much of the 2013 and 2015 field seasons recording thousands of stone features in the Complex on prairie level and found a significant array of sites including constructed and cairn-marked travois/foot trails, complex stone circles, cairns, rock alignments, vision quests and of course the three known medicine wheels (Minor I,II and III). In 2016, they and their trusty cohort of volunteers (Janice Andreas, Kay and Steve Farquharson, Cam Gardner, Helen Markussen, Terry Quinn) explored the spurs, benches and lower terraces of the Red Deer River valley to see how features there might relate to the Ceremonial Complex above and/or to the Red Deer River itself in this stunning location. Gary Adams and crew, who had conducted the first major inventory of the area in 1975 and 1976, had recorded 15 sites in the valley. We added another 30 sites bringing the total of individual stone features to some 1500.
The sites on prairie level are large and complex and inevitably tie in through direct line of sight with the medicine wheel locales. If you are in a spot on the landscape where the medicine wheels are out of view, there is a high likelihood there will be no stone feature site there. The sites along the valley wall and lower terraces are much smaller, often isolated yet are often ceremonial in nature themselves. Thus one can identify vision quest sites, impressive large stone circles and stone arcs on points of higher elevation and aspect in the valley itself. These sites are part of an entirety of ceremonial landscape use at this significant locale along the Red Deer River.
In the 2017 field season, Reeves and Kennedy revisited the Minor Complex as well as conducted inventory of stone features at the Muddy Springs and south Cabri Lake basin in Saskatchewan. Volunteers (Janice Andreas, Liz Bryan, Julia Coutts, Liam Fleishhacker, Cam Gardner, Hugh Henry, Helen Markussen, Terry Quinn, Connie Sykes, Bern Weinhold) also helped out. Muddy Springs is a prominent, now artificially enlarged springs that clearly was a focal point of ceremonial practice and land use in the past. Two Subgroup 1 medicine wheels and a variety of cairns, rock alignments and stone circle types were recorded in the area around the springs. Reeves and Kennedy also explored a coulee system immediately to the northeast of Muddy Springs as well as isolated hills in the basin just south of Cabri Lake. Again, ceremonial stone features including some very large cairns and a new form of stone circle we call squared circles (square outline with rounded corners) were found in those localities.
The past five (and soon to be six) years of research at the Forks and lower Red Deer River vicinities have led Reeves and Kennedy to the appreciation of ceremonial land use there – the significance of natural features such as the Forks, the horseshoe bend of the Red Deer River (the Minor Locale) and Cabri Lake and the culturally constructed referents such as medicine wheels that altogether drew people to the area for repeated ceremonial and social practice over thousands of years.
For this upcoming field season beginning in late May, Reeves and Kennedy will be selectively evaluating the impacts of the October 2017 devastating wild fires that ignited in Kennedy Coulee and spread quickly all the way to Cabri Lake, a distance of some 38 km from west to east. Sites recorded by Gary Adams in his 1975 and’76 surveys in Kennedy Coulee and other significant sites such as the Hugo Dosch bison kill and processing complex just east the provincial border in Saskatchewan were burned as were the numerous stone features recorded by Reeves and Kennedy along Empress Creek and in Muddy Springs southwest of Cabri Lake. Some small areas of the burn have been flown with a UAV. Butch Amundson and Tom Howat of Stantec flew a section and a half of the burned area at Muddy Springs in December 2017and Adam Hauer has recorded burned site areas around the Hugo Dosch site where he had undertaken archaeological inventory and testing for his MA thesis research at the University of Saskatchewan. Further UAV flights are planned over burned sections on the 96 Ranch south of Cabri Lake in May prior to the initiation of 2018 ground-based fieldwork.
Volunteers interested in participating in the 2018 fieldwork who are available June 3rd to 8th are invited to contact Barney Reeves (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Margaret Kennedy (email@example.com) for further details.