The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 1: Establishment

Though the Southwest Calgary Ring Road is perhaps the best known Provincial road to be planned through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve, it is not the first; over a hundred years ago another Provincial road was sought, and built, across the Nation’s land. The story of the Priddis Trail, as the early road was known, may provide some much-needed context with which to view the long negotiations for the ring road project, and perhaps to understand how the legacy of previous land agreements may have influenced the current process.

priddis-trail-2015(Photo of a remnant portion of the Priddis Trail, 2015. Source: Author’s own.)

In this three-part series, I will look at the establishment of the old road through the Tsuut’ina reserve, the use and decline of the route as a public highway, and the problems surrounding the ownership and the handling of the land and the deal. I acknowledge that the resources that inform this work are largely that of non-First Nations sources, and while this is intended to be a factual look at the history of the road, it must be noted that the perspective is largely non-indigenous. I hope that further research, working with Tsuut’ina sources, will reveal other equally valid perspectives on this story in the future.

THE NEED FOR GOOD ROADS

At the turn of the century, settlers of the Priddis and Millarville areas of southern Alberta relied on well established, though informal and unmaintained, wagon trails in order to access Calgary and other part and ranches of the region.

Calgary_priddis_reserve_area_new(Map of the Calgary area, showing the Tsuut’ina reserve and the Priddis area. Source: Google Maps.)

The provision of useful roads in the North West Territories was a constant battle for the Government, and many districts in the Territories, including Alberta, chronically suffered from poor or impassable routes. In 1900, the Department of Public Works noted this problem in its annual report:

“…so long as we have earth roads we must expect bad roads during wet seasons, and as the conditions in the Territories will not permit the construction of any other kinds of roads for many years to come it must be understood now that during certain years good roads will be an impossibility.” 1

In the midst of 1899, a notably wet year, local settlers and homesteaders called upon the Government of the North West Territories to improve and maintain a reliable road to the Priddis area. There already existed a well-used old trail between Priddis and Calgary, known locally as the Priddis Trail, or Gunawaspa Tina in Tsuut’ina, and it was this route that the locals wanted improved.2 Much like the case of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, it was an alignment through the Tsuut’ina reserve that was seen by the Government as providing the most efficient route to serve those living south of central Calgary. In this case however, its use was reported to have predated the establishment of the reserve.3

PriddisTrail_1897(A map from 1897 showing the route of the Priddis Trail. Source: “Preliminary map of a portion of the District of Alberta showing Canadian irrigation surveys during 1894″. University of Alberta Libraries, Peel Map 747.)

Crossing the eastern portion of the Tsuut’ina reserve (at that time known as the Sarcee reserve) and leading diagonally from what is now the corner of Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW to a point just north of Priddis, the trail had been in use for many years by early European settlers of the area and Nation members. Like many in the North West Territories, the earthen trail suffered from regular periods of muddy and impassable conditions, and despite warnings that roads may not be improvable in the short-term, the Government had recently begun to prioritize important ‘Colonisation Roads’4 which connected newly settled areas and local market centres. Calls for the trail to be opened and improved as a public highway were heeded.

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The Southwest Ring Road: 60 Years in the Making

Today, the City of Calgary’s Transportation Department will present to the Transportation and Transit Committee on issues related to the yet-to-be-constructed West and Southwest Ring Road projects. As it happens, today also marks an important date in the history of the ring road. It was exactly 60 years ago that the Province of Alberta first announced plans for what would eventually become the Southwest Calgary Ring Road.

On Friday, November 18, 1955, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce held a meeting at the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary. Speaking at the event was Social Credit MLA and Minister of Highways Gordon Taylor, who provided a summary of the Province’s 12-month plan for highway projects in the Calgary area.

na-5600-7844a

(The Hon. Gordon Taylor, Minister of Highways (Centre) shown here opening the Mewata Bridge, Calgary, 1954. Glenbow Archives NA-5600-7844a)

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Three Groups Shortlisted to Bid on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road

The Government of Alberta has shortlisted three consortia to bid on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project, following the completion of the Request for Qualification (RFQ) process in August. Five groups in total responded to the request, with Mountain View Partners, Southwest Connect and Valley Link Partners having been selected.1

CRR_SW_2014

The Province is proceeding with the Southwest Calgary Ring Road as a 30-year Design-Build-Finance-Operate P3 (Public/Private Partnership) project, and is anticipating to contribute partial funding of between 50%-70% of the capital cost of the project.2 The selected groups will now submit proposals for the project in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process that should last about nine months.3

The RFP process includes:

  • “Outlining preliminary details of the design, including the roadway, bridges and other elements of the project”
  • “Outlining their management plan and schedule for the construction of the project”
  • “Detailing how they plan to provide partial financing for the construction of the project; and”
  • “Outlining their management plan to operate, maintain and rehabilitate this segment of the Calgary Ring Road over the 30-year operations period.3

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Federal Funding Announcement

On Thursday July 30 2015, Federal Minister for National Defence and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, along with Alberta Minister for Transportation Brian Mason, announced Federal funding for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project.

At the announcement, also attended by Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney-Onespot, Kenney detailed a commitment of $582.9 million, which represents one quarter of the estimated $2.8 billion cost for construction of this leg of the road. The funds are being earmarked from the National Infrastructure Component of the New Building Canada Fund, which ‘provides funding for projects of national significance’1.

July_2015_update_new

(Map showing the newly revised route of the Southwest ring road; from Macleod trail in the south, to west of 101st street SW in the west.)

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Highway 8 and the Ring Road

This month, the Government of Alberta revised the plans for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project by extending the western portion of the road into the Highway 8 corridor. This section of the ring road, what is currently Highway 8 from Sarcee trail to just west of the Calgary city limits and highlighted below in blue, had until recently been a part of the West Calgary Ring Road Project. This change shifts approximately 5km of roadway to the Southwest ring road, adds one additional interchange (69th street SW) and a new crossing over the Elbow River to the project, while removing the same from the West leg of the road.1

July_2015_update_new(The previous Southwest ring road route in green, with the addition of a portion of Highway 8 in blue, making up the most recent Southwest ring road alignment.2)

This section of Highway 8, between Sarcee trail and 101st street, has played an important role in the history of the ring road, not only recently, but for many years before.

South Morley Trail, Springbank Trail, Richmond Road and Highway 8

The modern Highway 8 partially follows the route of one of the oldest roads on Calgary’s west side. Richmond road, first known as South Morley Trail, was a key trail west of the city in the 19th century, and originally connected Calgary to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation Reserve via Springbank.3

1894_Richmond_Road(The Richmond road corridor highlighted in pink, 1894.3)
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Treaty Day

Yesterday, June 26 2015, the Tsuut’ina Nation celebrated Treaty Day, a day of celebrations capped off with a firework finale at the Grey Eagle Entertainment Centre. The day marks the establishment of the Tsuut’ina reserve with the signing of a Treaty 132 years ago.

treaty_1883

(Articles of Surrender and Treaty – the Sarcee’s of Treaty 7 to Her Majesty – IT 332. Docket Title Page portion. 1883. Library and Archives Canada (R216-79-6-E))

Treaties and Reserves

The Tsuut’ina Nation first entered into a Treaty with the British Crown in 1877 with the signing of Treaty 7 in September of that year. This Treaty initially created a reserve at Blackfoot Crossing, near Gleichen Alberta, that was to be jointly shared between the Tsuut’ina, the Siksika and the Kainai Nations1. Following the disappearance of the Buffalo from the Alberta plains in the following years, and unrest with the shared reserve, the Nation moved near Fort Calgary in 1880. The Nation endured further hardships in the years follwing the signing of Treaty 7, and in the summer of 1881 discussions began with representatives of the Canadian Government for the creation of a new and separate reserve. After scouting potential locations, the Tsuut’ina settled along the Fish Creek that fall, on land that would soon be formally granted as a reserve.2

On June 27 1883, a new Treaty, as a supplement to Treaty 7, was agreed to by Chief Bull Head, Many Horses, Eagle Robe, Big Plume and Painted Otter. The new Treaty established the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve that we know today, having been surveyed the year before, and consisting of 108 square miles of land between Calgary and Bragg Creek.3

1889-sarcee

(Tsuut’ina reserve, surveyed 1882. Descriptions and Plans of Certain Indian Reserves in the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, 1889. Nelson.)

Despite several surrenders and land sales over the years, the reserve borders have remained largely the same as was first granted in 1883. The only addition of land (above the initial allocation) happened this year, as a result of the Southwest Ring Road land swap; the additional lands that were added to the reserve in May of 2015 marked the first net-increase to the reserve since its establishment.

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For an oral account of the events leading up to the establishment of the Tsuu T’ina reserve in 1883, you can view the excellent discussion with Tsuu T’ina elder Hal Eagletail: https://vimeo.com/40184903 (beginning at 11:52). Also see the article “The ‘Sarcee War’: Fragmented Citizenship and the City” by Patricia K. Wood.

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Sources

1) Treaty No. 7 (Copy of Treaty and Supplementary Treaty No. 7 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Blackfeet and Other Indian Tribes, at the Blackfoot Crossing of Bow River and Fort Macleod). 1877. Retrieved June 27 2015 http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028793/1100100028803

2) The ‘Sarcee War’: Fragmented Citizenship and the City. Patricia K. Wood. 2006.

3) Articles of Surrender and Treaty – the Sarcee’s of Treaty 7 to Her Majesty. 1883. Library and Archives Canada – IT 332 (R216-79-6-E)

SW Ring Road Land Transfer Approved

On May 1 2015 the Privy Council of Canada passed order 2015-0556, which authorizes the transfer of the proposed Southwest Ring Road corridor to the Province of Alberta. The same day, the Council passed a separate order, 2015-0557, which adds and incorporates former Alberta Crown lands into the Tsuut’ina reserve. With these two documents the land acquisition required for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road is approved.

The Province transferred $275,000,000 to the federal government in April of this year. The payment for the land will only be forwarded to the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the land title will only be assigned to the Province, once the Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada signs off on the transfer.

reserve_overall_1
(Source: Canada Lands Survey Records (CLSR) 103661 January 21, 2015 and CLSR 103574-1 December 17, 2014. Image: Google Maps)

The Image above shows the new boundaries of the Tsuut’ina reserve. The original reserve (created in 1883) is shown in blue, while the newly added land (2015) is shown in magenta. The Weaselhead (1931), the Highway 22 corridor (1957) and the Southwest Ring Road corridor (2015) have been removed from the original reserve.

Moving Forward

The 2013 referendum of Tsuut’ina members, and the subsequent ratification of the agreement, meant that the Nation approved the sale and exchange of lands in order for the Province to acquire the corridor needed to build the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. Over the past 18 months, both the Province and the Nation have worked to fulfill their obligations under the agreement, in order to ensure that the land transfers would be approved by the Federal Government. Once the transfer has been enacted, which provincial representatives expect soon, the Province will have seven years in which to construct the road.

The commitment to construct the road was recently reaffirmed by former Premier Jim Prentice in the Progressive Conservative’s 2015 Provincial Budget, with construction of this leg of the ring road planned to begin as early as 2016. Though a new government is now in place, a finalized transfer of the corridor will oblige the Province to construct the road as agreed, or face the loss of the land and the money already paid.

Premier-designate Rachel Notley did not take a definitive stance on the Calgary Ring Road in the course of the 2015 election campaign, though she is quoted in relation to the ring road project as saying “In principle we are adopting the capital funding envelope and the vast majority of the commitments that the [Progressive] Conservatives have already adopted so you’d see us being in line with what’s already in the budget.” (Calgary Herald, April 29 2015, ‘Wildrose Leader Brian Jean promises to finish Calgary ring road by 2021′)

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