Campaign for Canada’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park
CASE FOR SUPPORT
FROM ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE TO CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
Wanuskewin has been affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan for over three decades. It continues to hold the undiscovered stories of First Nations peoples and of Canada – a site of national importance to archaeologists, historians and all those with an interest in our past.
Wanuskewin belongs to all Canadians. More than a dig site – Wanuskewin is a centre of excellence in education, interpretation and preservation of Indigenous art and culture.
As we approach 150 years of Canadian history, the relationship between First Nations peoples and settlers continues to evolve. Stories remain to be told. Wanuskewin has a role in developing this narrative and in bringing the relationship with Canada’s First Nations full circle. It’s time to complete the story of the people of the Great Plains.
Every year, 40,000 people visit Wanuskewin to discover the stories of early life on the Canadian prairies. Through our affiliation with the University of Saskatchewan, Wanuskewin is recognized as a preeminent centre of research and education in Great Plains history and archaeology. Building on the strengths of our diverse cultural, spiritual, historical and ecological program offerings, Wanuskewin can go even further.
- Renovated and expanded interpretive centre
- Expanded gallery – an international destination for Indigenous artists, collectors and exhibitions
- Enhanced cultural and educational programming
- Research and education labs
- Site improvements
- Trail renewal
For thousands of years, this valley was a magnet that pulled people from thousands of miles away to one concentrated area. Today, it’s an unparalleled archaeological resource and we’ve only scratched its surface.
– Dr. Ernest G. Walker
ARCHAEOLOGIST / FACULTY MEMBER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN / BOARD MEMBER AT WANUSKEWIN HERITAGE PARK
FROM NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE TO GLOBAL UNESCO DESTINATION
We believe that the historical and cultural significance of Wanuskewin meets the criteria for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our development plan will allow the pursuit of UNESCO status, placing Wanuskewin alongside global destinations.
Wanuskewin will be a global destination celebrating early North American civilization, a unique site honouring Pre-Contact Indigenous life on the Great Plains.
UNESCO recognizes sites that are of outstanding importance to the common heritage of humanity. These World Heritage Sites celebrate the link between nature conservation and cultural preservation, the way people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two. Rich in both nature and cultural diversity stretching back over 6,000 years, Wanuskewin has begun the process of applying for UNESCO designation.
Over 10,000 people visit Wanuskewin every year from places outside of Canada. They come to Wanuskewin to learn about early North American civilization and to celebrate First Nations culture. With artifacts that predate the ruins of Rome and the pyramids of Egypt, Wanuskewin stands alone as a window into some of the continent’s earliest inhabitants.
- Enhanced visitor experience
- Creation of an Institute for research and international collaboration
- Preservation and protection initiatives – natural ecology and cultural heritage
Whenever I visit Wanuskewin, I feel the thundering hooves of the bison and acknowledge the stealthy wisdom of First Nation hunters. This place helps us remember the reality, the magic and the traditions of the people whose land this is and to whom all of us who came after and asked to share it owe so much.
– Adrienne Clarkson
FORMER GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA
RETURNING THE BISON TO WANUSKEWIN’S PLAINS
The Meewasin Valley Authority contributed to the initial purchase of the land for Wanuskewin and considers the development of Wanuskewin Heritage Park “one of its proudest accomplishments”. Meewasin’s most recent capital fundraising campaign raised funds to connect Wanuskewin directly to the full river network of trails. Its grand vision will further develop the “Destination Trail” to link Wanuskewin and Whitecap Dakota First Nation as part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Across the country, Canada’s parklands are increasingly surrounded by agriculture, urban and industrial development. Wanuskewin is an opportunity to protect a unique ecology.
Saskatoon is Canada’s fastest growing city. Urban expansion is estimated to reach the outer boundaries of the Park by 2018, and surround it soon after. The proximity, size and significance of Wanuskewin provide valuable opportunities for cultural development and environmental preservation initiatives on an international scale.
Meewasin’s Conservation Zone encompasses 60 km along Saskatoon’s river valley, its paths extending on the northwest side to Wanuskewin. Guided by many of the same principles as its neighbouring park association, Wanuskewin strives to balance accessibility, recreation and development with resource conservation, and to do everything possible to preserve its natural and heritage resources.
Environmental stewardship of the land is an integral part of Northern Plains culture and Canada’s future. For generations, Elders and Knowledge Keepers have taught youth about the importance of
keeping the land in its original condition, a way of giving back to the earth that sustains us. Wanuskewin strives to be a leader in conservation efforts, teaching connectedness to and respect for the land.
- Extended trail system with signage detailing ecological aspects of the Park
- Interpretative walks
- An ancestral Plains bison herd in its natural habitat
- Expanded land zone, a physical and visual buffer from development
- Reclaimed native prairie grasslands
Wanuskewin plays a valuable role in the conservation efforts connected to our river valley – the Opimihaw Valley is home to a unique and incredibly rich biodiversity of birds, plants and wildlife.
– Lloyd Isaak
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MEEWASIN VALLEY AUTHORITY
PRESERVING AN ECOLOGICAL ISLAND
Alberta’s Elk Island National Park has been home to a herd of pure-bred Plains bison since early Canadian conservation efforts after 1907 led to the purchase of a herd from the United States. Our plan will allow the repatriation of a number of these bison, bringing descendants of the original herd – symbols of the strength and survival of early Great Plains people – to their natural home.
Plains bison are waiting to return to Wanuskewin, the ancestral home of these sacred and revered animals.
At one time, over 10 million bison thundered across the Canadian prairies. Natural ecologists, these bison shaped the Great Plains, their movements laying the foundation for plant growth and animal survival. Canada’s first peoples followed their path, to Wanuskewin, joining together to hunt and celebrate the majestic beings that gave them life.
With the expansion of ranching and farming across North America, habitat loss and unregulated hunting decimated the bison population. Less than 30 of the original Plains bison remained at the end of the 1880s, roaming free in an area that later became Yellowstone National Park.
An integral part of Wanuskewin’s Renewal Campaign is the return of the original Plains bison, their first time roaming these plains in over a century. Once again, this majestic being, a symbol of great pride and prosperity, will bring people together at Wanuskewin.
We have identified a herd of Plains bison with a direct ancestral connection to North America’s last remaining herd. From the very beginning, the vision for Wanuskewin has included the reintegration of these sacred and revered animals, who will also serve a role in renewing and protecting the region’s fragile grasslands ecology.
- Repatriation – the trek home for the descendants of the original herd
- Bison facilities and husbandry
- Educational programs sharing the importance of the bison to early life on the Canadian plains
When I was a child, our Elders told stories of how important the buffalo were to our people. I knew the stories, but I never saw the buffalo. Now we can bring those stories – bring our history – full circle at Wanuskewin for the next generation.
– Elder Melvina Eagle & her granddaughter, Summer
WHITECAP DAKOTA FIRST NATION