Exploring Local History at Sounding Lake

Me at the R.N.W.M.P cairn near Sounding Lake

Last April I had the opportunity to visit Special Area 4 tucked into this east-central corner of Alberta, and bursting with natural beauty and Western Canadian history. That early spring day, the hilltops were covered with crocuses and the temperature was a mild 20 degrees Celsius.

I took a whole bunch of photos on the adventure and I’ll share some of those here with you. My trip inspired me to research a bit about the history of Sounding Lake and the treaty adhesion that was signed there back in 1878. On behalf of the Amisk-Hughenden Historical Society, I posted a blog that also features my photos and that links to several pages from this area’s earlier history book called The Lantern Years: Buffalo Park to Neutral Hills. If you’re craving real wild West history, you can access the society’s post here.

Wild crocuses, small and delicate, grow and bloom on unbroken prairie in the early springtime.

When visiting this area, we were guided by our gracious host who contacted the landowners and those who lease crown land, to get permission to explore Sounding Lake’s history. The Treaty Number Six Adhesion signing and all the other gatherings that took place there make this area a very significant part of Canadian Prairie history. It would be excellent if this area were more accessible to people exploring our historysuch a rich history so close by and so hidden away.

The Adhesion 157D to Treaty Number Six cairn on the eastern shore of Sounding Lake.

This cairn, erected in 1978, tells the story about the signing of the Treaty Number Six Adhesion. It was a very big deal. The cairn reads:

“Dedicated to the signing of Adhesion 157D to Treaty Number Six by the Woods Cree and Plains Cree Indians, on August 19, 1878, at or very near this site known to the Cree as “The Nose”. The signing and subsequent treaty payment attracted some 5000 people to Sounding Lake.

This congregation of 4000 Indians, many Métis, 50 Northwest Mounted Police, 33 traders and many others, was said to be the largest such gathering ever to assemble in the West.

The 1879 treaty payment was completed here with some 2000 in attendance, noted visitors to Sounding Lake included: Gabriel Dumont, Charlies Trottier, the Marquis of Lorne, Poundmaker, Big Bear, Fathers Lacombe and Scollen, Reverends John and George McDougall, trader and writer John McDougall, Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney, Lieutenant Governor David Laird, and N.W.M.P. Inspector John French.”

A close-up photo of the text on the cairn.
A reflection of the far shore on the still surface of Sounding Lake.

As a reminder of the bison herds that roamed the Canadian Prairies, our host brought us to what he believes is a “bison rubbing stone.” These were large boulders on the Prairies that bison would rub against to take off their thick winter hair and also any irritating bugs. The herds rubbed against these big stones so often and for so many years that the boulders’ edges became rounded and smooth.

This boulder is very weathered and yet you can still see the smooth, rounded corners where bison may have eased their itch for hundreds of years.

If you’re interested in bison rubbing stones, you can read more about them on this engaging site created by the Souris Plains Heritage Association in Manitoba.

On the hilltops overlooking the Neutral Hills to the south a few tipi rings are still visible. This is the best-preserved tipi ring I captured that day:

This photo overlooks the hills to the north (if I remember correctly).
A view of the lake from a hilltop.

Not only was our host and guide very informative, he also owns big, sturdy truck that allowed us to get around this rough terrain, and up and down hillsides.

On our drive to Sounding Lake and the Royal North-West Mounted Police outpost site, we were fortunate to see two matching mules. There’s not much excitement anymore in those Neutral Hills and it seemed the pair of mules were pretty curious about us as they came right down to the fence line to watch us pass.

Matching mules, ridiculously cute.

Here’s a photo of the R.N.W.M.P cairn where there was an outpost, including barracks and a barn. Again, if you’re interested in Sounding Lake and its important place in Western Canadian history, visit the Amisk-Hughenden Historical Society’s website to read my post there. Take care and have a really nice weekend! – Lori

4 Comments on “Exploring Local History at Sounding Lake”

  1. Thought you might appreciate the content attached.

    Glad you posted the information you did. You are so right – there is a lot of history ‘in those hills’, it’s frustrating access is so difficult. However, would these sites be so well preserved if the general public had easy access?


    Liked by 1 person

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