The park recently received the ITAC Indigenous Tourism Award at the 2019 Canadian Tourism Awards ceremony in Ottawa.
The award recognizes an Indigenous tourism site that is committed to the development, promotion and delivery of an authentic, innovative and enriched visitor experience.
Wanuskewin was recognized for sharing Indigenous culture, traditions and history.
“It’s incredibly humbling to be recognized this way,” said Andrew MacDonald, the park’s sales and marketing manager.
“I think for all of our staff and certainly our elders and our board as well, this is really exciting news.”
MacDonald said the award is recognition that Wanuskewin is on the right track with its renewal project.
“It really lets us know that what we are doing is certainly what the public is looking for and certainly something that is needed,” he said.
“So we really feel like we’re doing something that’s on track.”
The park, just north of Saskatoon, is located on a sacred site where Northern Plains Indigenous peoples have been gathering for over 6,400 years.
It is also home to Canada’s longest-running archeological dig, Tourism Saskatoon said.
“The Wanuskewin Heritage Park continues to open doors to learning about Indigenous cultures and sharing experiences with our visitors,” Todd Brandt, Tourism Saskatoon president and CEO, said in a statement.
“Congratulations to Wanuskewin as they move toward UNESCO World Heritage status, and the leadership they are providing to our industry.”
The park was named in December 2017 to Canada’s tentative list for a UNESCO World Heritage site designation.
Wanuskewin has been working since then to obtain the designation through a total park renewal project.
The $40 million Thundering Ahead project aims to make the park a world-renowned centre for education, entertainment and tourism.
MacDonald said the award feeds into that momentum.
“We want to be recognized certainly on that national stage as a centre of excellence and a centre that that is the destination when you come to Canada,” MacDonald said.
“In terms of performing arts, in terms of culinary arts, in terms of visual arts, and of course, science with archaeology and anthropology as well. There’s so many different elements to the park.”
The plan also includes introducing a small herd of plains bison to the park, but when that will happen is up to the bison, MacDonald said.
“We are aiming for early 2020, that’s kind of the latest information,” he said.”
“The one thing about bison is you can’t tell them what to do, so we’re very much on their timetable.”
—Nicole Stillger contributed to this story