While the Weaselhead cannot possibly be summarised in a single blog post, some of the key points in it’s history can be traced.
What we know as the Weaselhead was originally part of the First Nations reserve which was granted to the Tsuut’ina (then Sarcee) in 1883, though of course it existed long before that as part of the Tsuut’ina traditional lands. Before its sale to the City, and for a time after, the area had been used by the Canadian Military for training and maneuvers. It was also the location of a public road called the Priddis Trail. The road was built in 1900 and originated at what would later become 37th street SW and 66th avenue SW. (A survey from 1934 including the Weaselhead road is shown below, and I cover the story of the Priddis Trail here).
The origin of the Weaselhead name is unclear; according to several sources, including the City of Calgary, the area was named after a Tsuut’ina chief who was in power at the time of first European contact, Chief Weaselhead. Tsuut’ina member Hal Eagletail recounts a more colourful history. In it, Weaselhead was a Cree con-artist who was murdered near his shack, and the naming of the area ‘Weaselhead’ was due to a tradition of naming an area after a bad or notorious incident that occurred there. The name ‘Weaselhead’ (also known as Weasel Head or Weazel Head)in relation to this area was first recorded in 1893 by Indian Agent Samuel Lucas.
The Weaselhead was sought by the City of Calgary to protect the headwaters of the soon-to-be-filled reservoir, a result of the Glenmore Dam which was completed in 1932. On May 4 1931, the City negotiated the sale of the 593.5 acres of the Weaselhead for $29,675, about $50 per acre, and the first payment was made on December 9 1931. At the conclusion of the negotiations for the sale of the land Calgary City Solicitor L.W. Brockington was officially named ‘Chief Weasel Head’ by the Tsuut’ina. Once the Reservoir was filled, parts of the Weaselhead area became seasonal wetlands. The 193.5 acre portion of the Weaselhead north of the Elbow river was part of a surrender made by the Nation in 1913 (more on that here), while the remaining land was surrendered especially for the sale to the City.
Click here to read the May 5 1931 account of the purchase in the Calgary Daily Herald
In 1996 the Tsuut’ina filed a claim to appeal the sale of the Weaselhead, and has stated that they are seeking compensation rather than the land back. In 2000, City Alderman Barry Erskine claimed that the Tsuut’ina had challenged the sale price in 1935 and the transaction was upheld in court. He may have been referring to the Glenmore Inquiry of 1932, headed up by Justice Ewing. In giving evidence, an independent valuator was hired by the Glenmore Dam Commission after all land deals were completed. The valuator, Fred Filteau, stated that the City generally overpaid when acquiring land for the dam site, with the Tsuut’ina land being the only reported exception. He states that while the city paid $30,046 for the land (it’s unknown why there is a discrepancy here with the official figure given by the Department of Indian Affairs) his valuation places the land value at $32,642.50, a difference of $2596.50, or a sale price of about 8% less than the independent valuation undertaken about 18 months after the deal was signed. According to the Calgary Public Library archives, Justice Ewing found no evidence of wrongdoing.
However, the Tsuut’ina land claim is not strictly based on the sale price; the claims revolve around undue influence and pressure to sell the land in the 1930s by the Federal Government, as well as the conditions of previous surrenders being ignored at the time of sale. The claims are still under negotiations, with settlement discussions happening as recently as October 2012 (See edits below).
EDIT May 24 2013: According to an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada spokesperson, on April 9 2013 the Tsuut’ina membership voted to approve a settlement offer from the Federal Government for the Glenmore Reservoir land claims. The last remaining step now is for Canada to approve the settlement agreement.
EDIT July 5 2013: On June 6 2013 the Government of Canada ratified the settlement agreement, and both the Glenmore/Weaselhead land claim and the Priddis Trail claim were settled.
EDIT July 6 2013: The Federal government has stated that the compensation comprises $20.8 million in the settlement of the three land claims that collectively make up the Glenmore claims. This includes the ‘1931 Surrender for Sale’ (Weaselhead) claim, the ‘Priddis Trail’ claim, and the ‘1930 Surrender for Gravel Lease’ claim, concluding all of the recorded outstanding Tsuut’ina land claims. For more on the land claims and the settlement, click here.