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Burial site has potential as a National Historic designation


Thomas J Bruner, Sweetgrass Staff Writer, Edmonton







Rossdale Flats continues to be contended by groups who want to protect the historical Indian burial ground from being blotted out by expansion of the nearby Rossdale Power Plant.
While most Aboriginals are requesting that the area be designated a National Historic site, consultant Lewis Cardinal, believes it could be even more than that.
"Edmonton is suffering from an identity crisis. It doesn't seem to know what it is or even where it came from. And right at the heart of the city, right at the Rossdale Flats is an answer to that- traditional gathering and waiting place," Cardinal explained.
"Once the city recognizes its origins ­ the birthplace of Edmonton is the Rossdale Flats or the Pehonan (in Cree), out there. And that is the spirit that underlies the whole city. And as I've said before, while the downtown may be the heart of the city, certainly the pehonan down at Rossdale Flats is the spirit of the city."
Many years ago, Rossdale Flats was once a gathering area for Aboriginals where they held a wide array of events, such as sacred and traditional ceremonies.
The area has been dated to have a history of 8,000 years. It was given the name 'Pehonan'; a Cree word meaning a gathering place.
Cardinal stresses to Sweetgrass that this is definitely an area that needs to be recognized.
"We recognize that there is a significant historical component to the very core of the city of Edmonton and that's what we're trying to impress upon the city. Rossdale Flats is not just a forgotten little package that happens to be in the centre of the city of Edmonton but rather it's a historical component that's very important to the identity of the city of Edmonton."
According to Cardinal, positive steps have been made towards getting the National Historic Site designation.
"Work with myself, and with other individuals who have worked on this project for a while, and the support from the community members down at Rossdale; the city has now moved to begin the process of the National Historic designation. This initiative started back in 2001, so it's picking back up again and moving forward for a National Historic designation," said Cardinal.
Cardinal hopes that Rossdale Flats can be earmarked for an even larger designation.
"Even greater than a National Historic designation, I feel it is significant enough to be warranted a World Heritage Site; not just Rossdale Flats, but the whole river valley."
In Canada, there are 935 National Historic Sites, 59 of which are in Alberta. As for the World Heritage Site designation, there are currently 878 sites that are listed to date. Only five of those sites are located in Alberta.
Waiting for a designation has been a trying affair for those concerned.
"Well, you see the first application for a National Historic designation has already met a number of criteria and now, according to that first application, the city needs to pass the resolution to that effect. But now the city wants to do a bit more research on it, and to begin the process for the application. That's where that is at right now," explained Cardinal.
To learn more about the Edmonton Rossdale Flats burial site go to www.abheritage.ca/eldersvoices/history/beginnings_pehonan.html.