A matter of kiskêyihtamowin—learning through experiences
In Saskatchewan, Wanuskewin Heritage Park reignites First Nations culture, boasts a premier destination for Indigenous teachings
There’s no better recipe for learning than to get out of the classroom, house, library—the list goes on—and experience something firsthand.
That’s the kind of learning that Wanuskewin Heritage Park fosters in the heart of Saskatchewan. Located just north of Saskatoon, the park first opened in 1992 and has become one of the most decorated non-profit tourism facilities in Canada—winning numerous awards to date, and setting out to achieve a World Heritage Site designation from UNESCO by 2025.
Besides the recognition and heightening buzz over the years, Indigenous cultural enrichment has always been the park’s driving focus.
“Education is a huge part of what we do,” says Amanda Bullin, Customer Experience Manager at Wanuskewin. “We want all of our visitors, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to come to our centre and walk away knowing something they didn’t before arriving.”
Most recently, Wanuskewin set its sights on adding new videos to its current online learning series, designed to be inline with the province’s education curriculum. The new videos will educate students on a wide range of Indigenous cultural connections to the Northern Plains and Wanuskewin through language, traditions, archaeology and the arts, and are set to be ready by fall 2022.
Wanuskewin’s programming also aims to be in line with the park’s vision and mission, to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous peoples, and act as a living reminder of the peoples’ sacred relationship with the land.
The National Historic Site, though expansive in its educational offering for Indigenous culture in general, is particularly dedicated to the people who lived in the area for thousands of years and today, including Cree, Dene, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota and Saulteaux First Nations, and the Métis people.
Enbridge recently gave Wanuskewin Heritage Park a $7,500 Fueling Futures grant as part of our commitment to strengthen the sustainability of communities near our operations. This funding has been directed toward production of these new videos to ensure they are of the highest quality, like everything else the center offers.
The park recently completed its Thundering Ahead campaign, which was a massive, years-long undertaking that expanded the Interpretive Center and refurbished the nearby trail system that so many visitors enjoy. The center is now a stunning landmark—hard to miss with its glass tipi structure emerging from the otherwise relatively flat prairie.
Outside the building, the park has added a full section of land that is now home to 18 Plains Bison (and growing), joining the over seven kilometres of trails, and an award-winning playground. Park staff are excited to launch into a new endeavour called “UNESCO READY” to establish Wanuskewin as Saskatchewan’s first UNESCO site, and a cultural beacon on the prairies.
In a regular, non-pandemic year, Wanuskewin sees about 40,000 visitors, and park staff are looking forward to seeing the numbers rise again soon.
“We’re so proud of the facility we’ve been able to create, and the community has just embraced it,” says Bullin. “It is so rewarding to see all sorts of people come through the doors and be able to offer something for everyone.”
(TOP PHOTO: Wanuskewin Heritage Park's herd of Plains Bison is 18 members strong and counting, with new additions every year.)
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