Milk River trip takes explorers on 43 kilometre, 2,600-year journey

During the May long weekend I, along with some of your local adventurers, had the pleasure of traveling along on a 43 kilometre canoe/kayak trip down a section of the Milk River in southern Alberta.

By Clint Hutton

During the May long weekend I, along with some of your local adventurers, had the pleasure of traveling along on a 43 kilometre canoe/kayak trip down a section of the Milk River in southern Alberta.

I am from Hanna, Alberta but the Rimbey voyageurs included Ralph Kenney, Harold Kenney, Del Kenney, Dennis Wheale and Lyle Tarney. One of the main reasons for going was to investigate an ancient form of writing mentioned by James Doty in his journal when he visited the area in 1855.

He was part of an expedition to negotiate a treaty for the American government. Seeking Indians who normally traded with Americans he traveled into Alberta. Doty’s journal, which is now in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, says, referring to the writings, “the writings which I had heard spoken of by the Indians as a locality where white men had many years ago written upon the rocks”.

Doty goes on to say he never found any white man writing but that he did find what he referred to as some kind of “rude hieroglyphics”. It wasn’t until 1982 that another American named Warren Dexter, an amateur student of migrations of ancient people and photographer, got together with a couple of local ranchers in the area named Alva Bair and Lawrence Halmrast.

This one prominent Hoodoo had puzzled them for years. It had a couple of what are called stem lines around it’s circumference and then along the stem line on alternating sides and numbers grooves scratched in.

Some historians such as Barry Fell refer to this writing as, Ancient Irish Ogam. The reason being is that it is also found on corners of tombstones in Ireland. I guess it is kind of ironic that this modern day Irishmen from Rimbey would be drawn or possibly compelled to travel to this same ancient majestic area that possibly attracted some of there ancient kinsmen back as early as 600 BC, according to Fell.

Upon finding this ancient monument, before we could ascend the cliff to its location, we had to very carefully pass by two fairly large rattlesnakes protecting the path to the ancient pillar. It was well worth navigating the rapids, the scorching heat, and the rattlers. Needless to say that was a May long weekend we will never forget.

For more information on Fell’s translation of the writing which has become known as the Ogam Pillar you can read a book by Warren Dexter called, America’s Ancient Stone Relics, or for more information on the Ogam alphabet, try Barry Fell’s book, America BC, which should be available through your local library. The main theory being that the Mississippi, Missouri and the Milk rivers were a highway for ancient travelers.

For pictures of the expedition, see page 9 of today’s Rimbey Review.