2015 Southwest Calgary Ring Road Maps

The following maps were released to the public in October of 2015 by the Province of Alberta, and rather than relying on older or historical maps of the project, I wanted to ensure that the most up-to-date information was available to readers. These are likely to remain the most current views of the road until a contractor is selected in September of this year.

Please click on the maps for larger versions.

Southwest Calgary Ring Road Route

From North to South, the following maps show the full route of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project as it currently stands:

1) While not part of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, Highway 8 from Lott Creek Boulevard to the Calgary City Limits at 101st Street SW will be twinned as part of the project, including a new bridge over the Elbow river.


2) The Southwest Ring Road begins at the Highway 8 Corridor, from Calgary City Limits at 101st Street SW, to the interchange at 69th Street SW.


3) Interchange of Glenmore Trail SW and Sarcee Trail SW, including Glenmore Trail upgrades between Sarcee Trail SW and the 37th Street SW interchange. Also shown are the interchanges with Westhills Way SW and Strathcona Street.

SW-CRR - Sarcee Tr SW / Glenmore Tr SW / 37 Street SW / Westhill Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 2: A Road In Use

This is the second in a four-part series looking at the history of the Priddis Trail. The first part, which examined the establishment of the road can be found here. 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 and working with Tsuut’ina sources will reveal other equally valid perspectives on this story in the future.


From Governor-Generals, Tsuut’ina Chiefs and Colonels, to Ranchers, Homesteaders and Boy Scouts, the Priddis Trail was important to a great many people for a great number of reasons. The establishment of the Tsuut’ina reserve and an early influx of Homesteaders in the late 1800s, followed not long after by the Military and a growing oil industry, meant that reliable access to a growing district was vital to the region.

map-pt-only(Map of the route between Calgary and Millarville through the Tsuut’ina Reserve in 1899. Source: ‘Plan Shewing survey of Old Trail and New Road from N.E. Cor. Sarcee Indian Reserve to Millarville P.O.’ A. P. Patrick. 1899. Plan 1119i, Alberta Land Titles, Southern Alberta Land Registration District )


When first formed, the route that would become the Priddis Trail was a modest dirt track used by members of the Tsuut’ina Nation and by Homesteaders living in the Priddis and Millarville districts of Alberta. Suitable for horse-and-wagon travel, the trail provided a much needed connection between these southern areas and Fort Calgary, including the burgeoning town that had begun to grow around it. In its earliest days, the land that the trail passed through had not yet been designated as the Tsuut’ina reserve1, and when the reserve was established in 1883, the use of the trail continued unabated by Tsuut’ina members and non-Indigenous settlers alike.

pa-3516-7(‘Group of visitors in wagon on the way to Sarcee (Tsuu T’ina) reserve, Alberta.’ Glenbow Archives PA-3516-7. ca. 1899)

The earliest record of the Priddis Trail comes not from the path itself, but of the trail’s crossing of the Elbow river, known as the ‘Weasel Head Crossing’. In December of 1890 a newspaper article noted the Weasel Head Crossing as the site of the butchering of stolen cattle,2 making this the first mention, albeit indirectly, of both the trail and of the ‘Weaselhead’ name that this part of the Elbow river valley would later become known by.

By 1894 the first map of the route was made by the Department of the Interior3, and soon the trail was showing up regularly in newspaper accounts and official documents. In response to questions about the trail in 1899, the acting Agent of the Sarcee Agency stated: “(Chief Bull Head) informed me the trail marked in the plan was in use by the Indians before the treaty was made with them.”4, an indication of the long use of this important connection.

PriddisTrail_1897(A map from 1897 [with added highlights] 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.)

For users of the road, whether Nation members or Homesteaders, the trail enabled sustainability and economic activity by providing access to the marketplaces of Calgary. In 1893, for instance, a “comfortable dwelling house, with a good stable and corral” was built at the Weasel Head Crossing so that Tsuut’ina members had a place to stay when harvesting timber destined for sale in the City5. Former Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Sanford Big Plume also noted the use of the old trail in the Nation’s economic and cultural activities: “In the late 1800s… Once a year, Foxtail would cut small evergreens, load them on a wagon led by horses, and drive them down the Priddis Trail to Fort Calgary. There, they were sold as Christmas trees. With the proceeds of those trees, Foxtail would help fund a meal for our people, so we could also celebrate Christmas.”6

In a similar way, Homesteaders relied on the trail to bring produce and stock to market, and to access the services that the City offered.

pa-1004-18(Postcard showing a wagon on the Priddis Trail. ‘Weaselhead district, Calgary, Alberta.’ Glenbow Archive PA-1004-18. ca. 1908.)

Besides being functional, the trail was also noted to offer access to some of the more beautiful country in the area, and the use of the trail for pleasure would increase in popularity over the years. In the summer of 1895 the Governor-General of Canada Lord Aberdeen was touring the country, and by the summer of that year he had arrived in Calgary. On a morning in August, Lord and Lady Aberdeen were driven in the vice-regal carriage to a meeting with members of the Tsuut’ina Nation via the trail; the journey having been noted in the Calgary Daily Herald as “one of the prettiest drives in the N.W.T.”7. Forty years later, noted homesteader A.M. Stewart mirrored that sentiment in stating “…this road constitutes about the prettiest drive out of Calgary.”8 and the route was included in maps of automobile pleasure tours for the Calgary region.9

The still-nameless trail was increasingly well-used, and this usage would soon outstrip the ability of the trail to comfortably accommodate the traffic. By the end of the 1890s, muddy conditions on the primitive trail, ruts caused by wagon wheels and a lack of a bridge over the Elbow river would cause problems for travelers looking for unimpeded access. The un-maintained dirt track was proving to no longer be suitable for the use it was expected to accommodate, and Homesteaders living in the area soon lobbied to correct the situation. Continue reading

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 four-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. Part Two: The Use of the Road, can be found here. 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.


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 areas 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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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.


(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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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.


(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


(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.


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.



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.

(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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Budget 2015 and the Ring Road

Yesterday the Alberta government announced details of the proposed budget for 2015, which includes information about the two remaining portions of the Calgary Ring Road. As a cost-cutting measure, the West Calgary Ring Road is being delayed by four years, and construction is now slated to begin in 2020/2021. Expected completion of this leg, and ultimately the entire ring road, will not occur until 2024/2025, and the measure is expected to defer a reported $1.5 billion from the current budget time-frame. W&SW_Ring_Road The Southwest Calgary Ring Road, the portion that runs through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve, remains unaffected. Work will begin on this leg of the road once the Tsuut’ina land transfer has been approved and once a contract has been tendered and awarded, with construction expected to begin next year. The agreement signed between the Nation and the Province in 2013 commits the Province to open the Southwest portion of the road within 7 years of the land transfer, and the opening is estimated to occur in 2020. The 2015 budget allocates $2.9 billion over the next 5 years towards the construction of Alberta’s ring roads. This figure includes funds needed to complete Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive as well as beginning work on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (interestingly referred to as ‘Southwest Stoney Trail’ in the Province’s 5-year Capital Plan despite a promised name change as the road crosses through former Tsuut’ina reserve lands).