Wanuskewin Heritage Park sits above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River near Saskatoon. Wanuskewin Heritage Park became a Provincial Heritage Property in 1983. In 1987 it was declared a National Historic Site, and in 1992 the Interpretive Centre and trails were opened to the public. The Park’s mission is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous peoples. Their vision is that the Wanuskewin will be a living reminder of the peoples’ sacred relationship with the land. They are dedicated to the history of the land and the people who lived and thrived here for over 6,000 years. The way in which this park is run, organized and the partnerships it has established is what makes this venture sustainable.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority (WHPA) is a non-for-profit organization governed by twelve Board of Directors that consists of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members. WHPA has a Council that consists of Elders’ who represent the various First Nations communities who gathered in the Wanuskewin area and provide strong leadership for the park. The Elder’s council ensures that the direction, planning and continuity of Wanuskewin are aligned with oral tradition and authentic cultural heritage.
Wanuskewin is guided by provincial government legislation under the Wanuskewin Heritage Park Act and depends on donations and core business activities to sustain operations. This unique model of governance allows for the local community to take on the primary role for conservation, stewardship and operations. All public funding that the Park receives is applied for through grant funding mechanisms that are reviewed on a regular basis. By keeping this control the First Nations involved can focus on their own goals and continue to improve themselves and their communities.
The archaeological resources of Wanuskewin are exceptional and among the finest examples of Pre-Contact occupation of the Great Plains of North America. Wanuskewin is Canada’s longest-running archaeological dig. Other activities of the park include:
- Gift shop with authentic homemade items made by local First Nation artisans.
- Their restaurant uses local fresh ingredients in all their dishes. Their menu also reflects traditional Frist Nation cuisine with a contemporary style.
- The galleries showcase the work of Indigenous artists whose practices and productions connect to the natural, cultural, and socio-political histories, issues, and future of the Northern Plains.
The park increases its opportunities to grow and share their culture outside the park by partnering with the Meewasin Valley Authority, Tourism Saskatchewan Canada, the City of Saskatoon and many others. Wanuskewin engages in strategic community partnerships in order to educate, promote, and market in collaboration with others. Wanuskewin regularly provides in-kind sponsorship to their partners and others who wish to showcase First Nations artifacts and materials such as tipis, robes, and powwow regalia at outside events.
(Photos courtesy of https://wanuskewin.com/)