Alberta’s Writing-on-Stone monument named UNESCO World Heritage Site
The federal government says the designation, made at UNESCO’s annual meeting in Azerbaijan on Saturday, follows more than a decade of advocacy by Indigenous groups and the provincial government.
The site, described as an “ancient and sacred cultural landscape where Indigenous peoples have created rock art for millennia,” is contained entirely within Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
Known as Aisinai’pi (“it is pictured/written”) in Blackfoot, the site contains thousands of rock carvings and paintings, including some that chronicle historical events such as Indigenous People’s first contact with Europeans.
The Government of Alberta said Writing-on-Stone contained “the most significant concentration of protected First Nations petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the Great Plains of North America. Some of the carvings and paintings date back 2,000 years.”
The nomination was prepared by the provincial government in partnership with the Blackfoot Confederacy and with ongoing support from the Government of Canada.
“Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi is the site of many natural wonders and a testament to the remarkable ingenuity and creativity of the Blackfoot people,” Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, said in a news release Saturday. “It’s easy to see why the site is seen by many as an expression of the confluence of the spirit and human worlds. I hope all Albertans will take the time to explore this extraordinary part of the province and all it has to offer.”
The province estimates about 60,000 people visit the site each year.
It becomes Alberta’s sixth World Heritage Site, and the twentieth in Canada.
2019 has also been designated International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations.
Indigenous leaders and the federal and provincial environment ministers are among those praising the decision.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is located about 128 kilometres southeast of Lethbridge.
with files from Jennifer Ivanov
© 2019 The Canadian Press