Episode 2.9

Overlooking the valley atop Jones’ Peak, Jacob and his aunt offer a prayer to honour Sitting Bull and their ancestors who sought refuge here after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Palaeontologist Emily Bamforth introduces the team to Scotty the T.rex and invites them to help excavate a brontothere, or Thunder Beast. Rudy, Jen and Jacob borrow horses at Reesor Ranch and ride through the scenic Cypress Hills surveying for evidence of the ancestors.

Frenchman River Valley: An Ancient Sea of Fossils

From the bottom of the valley, the team hikes upwards to Jones’ Peak for a sweeping panoramic view of the entire Frenchman River Valley. This was an ancient sea 75 million years ago.

Chimney Coulee is a provincial heritage site. In addition to Hivernants, which likely dates back to the 1870s, the coulee also contains the archaeological remains of a precontact campsite, possibly Dakota in origin, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, and a North-West mounted police post. The outpost was established in 1876 and operated intermittently until about 1887, ostensibly to keep an eye on the Sioux and Sitting Bull (Tatanka lyotake) who sought refuge here after the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

In terms of the broader regional and historical context, just west of Chimney Coulee lies the site of the 1873 Cypress Hills Massacre — a devastating example of settler violence on the plains. Upwards of 20 Nakota (Assiniboine) people were murdered by American bison hunters and wolfers. No one was convicted for this massacre. Nakota survivors took shelter with a neighbouring Métis community.

Jacob’s Family & Dakota History

Jacob grew up in Saskatchewan and has family in this part of the province. He and his aunt, Laura Pratt, hike to the top of Jones Peak to honour their ancestors who once sought refuge here. Jacob shares his family history and describes how Sioux refugees were driven from the States and into Canada after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Jacob and Laura are direct descendants of Medicine Bottle, who sought refuge in Canada after the Dakota War of 1862.

“One thing my Auntie always taught us was to remember our people from the past because it’s them who have fought for us to be here today.”

– Jacob Pratt

In Eastend: Scotty The T.rex

The town of Eastend is famous for the discovery of Scotty the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Scotty is over 65 million years old, and one of the largest, most complete T-Rex skeletons in the world. While in Eastend, the team stops at the T.rex Discovery Centre to see Scotty and meet with one of the centre’s resident paleontologists, Emily Bamforth.

“Where we find Scotty is only about 30m below the extinction boundary of the dinosaurs, so Scotty was probably one of the very last of her kind.”

– Dr. Emily Bamforth

Paleontology: Digging For Thunder Beasts

The museum’s paleontologists are working on an active dig nearby featuring a brontothere, Latin for Thunder Beast. An extinct mammal that roamed the continent 56-34 million years ago, brontotheriidae were herbivores that could reach heights of more than 8 feet tall. Superficially, they resemble the rhinoceros family, but they’re actually more closely related to horses. Emily invites Rudy, Jen and Jacob to visit the brontothere dig and try their hand at paleontology.

“It’s really exciting to see the actual Brontothere and the go directly to the site where they’re actually finding them.”

– Jacob Pratt

Cypress Hills Conglomerate

Rudy joins paleontologist Dr. Emily Bamforth to search for geological formations in the Cypress Hills. Coming upon an unusual exposure, Emily explains that Cypress Hills conglomerate is formed by ancient river deposits, containing water worn stones and sometimes even fossils. Examining these formations reveals the paleoflow of ancient rivers, providing clues about the environment and helping us understand the animals that once inhabited this region millions of years ago.

Riding at Reesor Ranch

The team continues onwards to historic Reesor Ranch, nestled in the Cypress Hills close the Alberta border. Rudy, Jen and Jacob saddle their horses and ride towards a nearby plateau with a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and valleys. They ride across the landscape, admiring the beauty and scope of the Cypress Hills. From their position up on the plateau, the team catches sight of tipi rings and interesting rock formations.

“The location of those features suggest to me that they might be cache pits or storage areas because the tipi that we visited earlier was just up the slope.”

– Dr. Rudy Reimer