One spring day in 2016, after years of travelling back and forth along Hwy 14 (AB) / 40 (SK), I decided it was time to take a look at the Viking Ribstones. East of the town of Viking, AB is a pull-out with a provincial heritage marker describing Ribstones Historic Site. I’d stopped there many times, but had never ventured any further because the turn off wasn’t marked.** However, I’d recently come across instructions on how to reach the site, and that encouraged me to try a quick visit, without risk of losing time on a search.
The Viking Ribstones are one of nine ribstone sites that have been found in Alberta. This location, on private land, is unique in that the boulders have not been disturbed or removed. In the 1950s, the area was ploughed, and at that time many ancient artifacts were uncovered. Historically, good luck offerings and prayers of thanks were given at ribstone sites to “Old Man Buffalo,” the spirit protector of the buffalo herds. Today, this hilltop remains a sacred site. Sweetgrass braids, offerings of tobacco, and colourful prayer flags on the surrounding trees and fencing are placed regularly, and should be respected.
The Cochin Lighthouse is, not surprisingly, the only one of its kind in Saskatchewan and offers spectacular views of Jackfish Lake and neighbouring Murray Lake. It sits atop a hill in the resort village of Cochin, about half an hour north of The Battlefords. Cochin, named after missionary Father Louis Cochin O.M.I., was originally settled as a Métis community, and Métis people continue to live in the area, today.
Also nearby are the Saulteaux and the Moosomin First Nations, both of which are Treaty 6 signatories. The Saulteaux are an Ojibway-speaking band whose forebears made their way to Saskatchewan from the northern United States via the northern Great Lakes. The group traveled west with the expansion of the fur trade. Land near Battleford was allocated for the Moosomin First Nation in 1881, but after the CNR main line was constructed through the reserve in 1903, the Moosomin were forced to surrender their land and relocate to the Cochin area.
Rain or shine, for me, it’s all about being on the road. I like to stop for historic markers, and keep my eye out for any, and all signage that may hint of a former overland trail. It’s almost like solving a mystery: it takes knowing a bit of background, being on the alert for clues, and then putting it all together, which in some cases only happens with luck!