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Wanuskewin gets Sask. government funding toward UNESCO designation

Funding from the Saskatchewan government will allow Wanuskewin to hire a designated project co-ordinator to support the park’s UNESCO World Heritage site application. Brady Ratzlaff / Global News

Darlene Brander says the Saskatchewan government’s one-time investment in Wanuskewin Heritage Park is an investment into preserving the past.

The province announced Tuesday it is providing Wanuskewin with $60,000 to hire a designated project co-ordinator to support the park’s UNESCO World Heritage site application.

Read more: Bison point way to major cultural find that rocks Wanuskewin’s history

Brander said this ensures Wanuskewin has the resources it needs for its nomination work.

“We know that we cannot do this alone,” Brander, Wanuskewin’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“This kind of provincial support signals strong stakeholder engagement to help us tell our story. One that showcases the richness, cultural diversity and archaeological attributes that will make Wanuskewin a very strong contender to become Saskatchewan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

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Government officials said Tuesday’s investment, along with other contributions and partnerships, shows their commitment to helping Wanuskewin with its UNESCO designation.

“Wanuskewin never fails to create a sense of awe and wonderment — it really is unlike anywhere else on the planet and is a direct link to our past,” said Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross.

“Our government committed to support Wanuskewin’s UNESCO application in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan, 2020-30 and we hope this grant will provide a solid foundation to move the process forward.”

Read more: USask, Wanuskewin Heritage Park sign renewed agreement to support Indigenous education

The park, just north of Saskatoon, launched a $40-million renewal project in 2017 and was named to Canada’s tentative list for a UNESCO World Heritage site designation in December 2017.

Bison were reintroduced to the park in December 2019, the first time plains bison were back on their ancestral homeland in over 150 years.

Last month, Wanuskewin staff announced a major archaeological find with some unexpected help from the bison herd.

Chief archaeologist Ernie Walker said he found a boulder partly protruding through the ground that had a strange groove over the top of it.

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“It was at that point I realized this is actually what is known as a petroglyph. This is intentionally carved,” Walker said last month.

Petroglyphs are carvings, engravings or incisions into a rock, Walker explained.

Walker said the four petroglyphs found are carved in the hoofprint tradition, most common in southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Read more: Wanuskewin Heritage Park welcomes 1st baby bison since 1876

Brander said the discovery is important to the park’s UNESCO application and said the petroglyphs are the final piece that makes Wanuskewin unique in the world.

According to the province, a UNESCO World Heritage designation is the highest recognition for a protected heritage area and recognizes humanity’s most outstanding achievements and nature’s most inspiring creations.

The designation is the gold standard for cultural and scientific sites internationally and the process of obtaining such a designation is complex and takes many years to achieve, officials added.

There are 20 World Heritage sites in Canada, none of which are in Saskatchewan.

with files from Kelly Skjerven

Click to play video: 'Bison point way to major cultural find that rocks Wanuskewin’s history' Bison point way to major cultural find that rocks Wanuskewin’s history
Bison point way to major cultural find that rocks Wanuskewin’s history – Nov 19, 2021

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