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TitlePotential aboriginal-occupation-induced dune activity, Elbow Sand Hills, Northern Great Plains, Canada
AuthorWolfe, S A; Hugenholtz, C H; Evans, C P; Huntley, D J; Ollerhead, J
SourceGreat Plains Research vol. 17, no. 2, 2007 p. 173-192
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20070013
NTS72I; 72J; 72O; 72P
AreaElbow Sand Hills
Lat/Long WENS-108.0000 -104.0000 52.0000 50.0000
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; vegetation; dunes; environmental impacts; environmental studies; environmental analysis; land use
Illustrationslocation maps; histograms; tables; plots
AbstractGeomorphological and archaeological evidence indicates potential linkages between Plains aboriginal occupation and dune activity in the Elbow Sand Hills of southern Saskatchewan, Canada. Vegetation encroachment has rapidly outpaced migration of an active dune complex over the last 65 years. Optical ages of stabilized dune remnants indicate that dune activity pre-dates Euro-Canadian settlement (ca. AD 1900). Early Euro-Canadian explorers observed local occupation and exploitation of the sand hills by aboriginal groups for herding and impounding bison. Mapping of archaeological sites in relation to physiography reveals that sand dunes, in close proximity to permanent water resources, were preferred areas of occupation during the late (0.17 - 2.0 ka BP) and middle Prehistoric (2.0 - 7.5 ka BP) periods. Collectively, these results support the hypothesis that aboriginal occupation disturbance may have perpetuated dune activity in the Elbow Sand Hills until the late 19th century, and that Euro-Canadian settlement, and land use emphasizing conservation may have encouraged recent stabilization. We propose that similar aboriginal occupation disturbances may have been responsible for perpetuating dune activity in other dune fields on the Great Plains. To this end, climatic variability should not be considered exclusive of other drivers of dune activity in semi-vegetated inland dune fields of the Great Plains.