- About Us
- Visiting the Park
- The Perfect Venue
- Seeking Knowledge
A Unique Opportunity
The Wanuskewin area contains some of the most exciting archaeological finds in North America. To date there are 19 pre-contact sites to be found within the valley and two historic sites making this region the longest running active archaeological site in Canada. Some are 5,000 to 6,000 years old and within walking distance of one another.
But the fact that each site can shed light on a way of life of which little is known – that is exciting.
The indigenous peoples of the Northern Plains came to the Opimihaw Creek (Tipperary Creek) area year after year, hunting bison and range animals and gathering plants of the prairies. Their way of life evolved to suit their unique environment. Little was known of their culture: much was conjecture based on similar peoples in other areas of North America, or more recent historical accounts.
Wanuskewin gives us the opportunity to delve into the past and discover what life was really like for the nomadic tribes. The theme of Wanuskewin Heritage Park is one of interpretation – exploring and explaining the meaning of the plains culture so that we can gain a better understanding of Saskatchewan’s First Nations peoples, and our common heritage.
A Place of Rare Beauty
When Raymond Moriyama, master planner of the Meewasin Valley Project, first came to Opimihaw Creek at Wanuskewin, he was carried away by its beauty.
No one fully appreciated the importance of this site until the early 1980s when Dr. Ernie Walker, Department of Anthropology and Archeology at the University of Saskatchewan, further identified the area as an archaeological marvel. And for today’s opportunities, we owe a special debt of gratitude to the Penner and Vitkowski family who owned and preserved the land for over 40 years, allowing some careful archaeological exploration throughout that period.
The Meewasin Valley Authority purchased the property in 1983 and a year later it was sold to the City of Saskatoon.
Queen Elizabeth II officially declared a National Heritage Site here in 1987, unveiling a commemorative plaque and recognizing the unique nature of this site and its great scientific importance.
Waiting to Reveal Its Secrets
Hunters and gatherers have lived in the Wanuskewin area for thousands of years. Before they hunted bison, they hunted mammoths, camels and other range animals now gone from the prairies. They adapted their entire cultural and spiritual foundations to the prairie environment and followed a pattern of life that saw little change through the centuries.
Visitors to Wanuskewin are able to walk trails into the past – to wonder and learn about life right here, but also of a time when every one’s life and their culture were based on the land.
Discovering Our Past
Wanuskewin brings out the meaning behind the sites and encourages visitors to step back in time to experience the Indian way of life.
The active participation of Saskatchewan Indian people brings added meaning to the use of the site and interpretive programs. As a result, visitors leave with a better and deeper understanding of early Plains culture and a greater appreciation of our common heritage.
Wanuskewin comes to life as visitors walk its trails.
Though far from colossal, many of the sites are older than Egypt’s pyramids. Some are twice as old as King Tut’s tomb. And like the pyramids, they reflect a unique way of life, one that was far different from ancient Egypt’s wealth.
Like the great herds of bison, many of the lifestyles and traditions of the Plains Indians have disappeared in the last 100 years. As the plains became more settled, areas like Wanuskewin likewise became more important.
Wanuskewin opens a window to our past. It gives us a sense of our heritage and that, in a way, brings us all closer together.
Wanuskewin a Reality
The goal of the interpretive program was to bring Wanuskewin to life through comprehensive programs that attracted visitors from near and far.
Wanuskewin opened to the public in June 1992 through the vision and partnerships of First Nations and non-First Nations. Wanuskewin is a good example of living and working together in harmony.
Times may have changed, but the importance of understanding our roots are greater than ever.
If the Wanuskewin project were only a heritage park that would limit its scope to interpretation of ’prehistory and it would not come close to its potential.
The park is “good” because of the partnerships and processes in creating it, because of the uniqueness of the quantity and quality of personal interaction, because of its authenticity and because it provides visitors with an opportunity to experience the site and be moved by a lifestyle from many centuries ago.
But to be “great” we are adding substance, depth, variety and interest.
In 2007, Wanuskewin began an infrastructure project entitled Phase I, with the support from the Province of Saskatchewan, the Department of Canadian Heritage, Western Economic Diversification and Aboriginal Business Canada. This multi-year renewal project will culminate with a Phase II, creating new exhibits and enhancing our programs and services.
Wanuskewin also long standing funding relationships with the City of Saskatoon, the Province of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan. We also have other partnerships with the Meewasin Valley Authority, the Rural Municipality of Corman Park and Saskatoon Public and Catholic School Divisions. We continue to develop more of these agreements with other public and private organizations throughout the province on an ongoing basis, many of which are not listed here.
Other developments being discussed:
A Centre for Indian Studies
Many discussions are being held with colleges and universities for a centre that will have both research and teaching components. It will encompass many academic and professional disciplines, all focusing their attention on Indian people and their society before and after the coming to North America of Europeans – through to the present day reality.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park will become the focus for interdisciplinary programming in Indian Studies. This program would attract scholars and students from many other places and could gain an international reputation.
Studies and visits to the park will influence the thinking and attitudes of young people throughout the province. They will have special significance for First Nations students from all educational systems. The potential for improving relationships between Indian and other cultures is enormous.
First Nations Activity Centre
To become a mecca for First Nations people – a place to come, be with friends and share common interests. The presence of so many First Nations people would make the park more attractive and interesting for non-First Nations visitors.
The park will be fulfilling its mandate in large part by means of interpretive programming for the tens of thousand or more people (including school age children and teens) who visit the park each year.
To reach its full potential, the Park will offer more intensive training that would inform particular groups in society about First Nation and Métis history and culture, raise the level of consciousness about indigenous programs and change attitudes towards and treatment of our people.
Wanuskewin will not only provide employment but also training in life and vocational skills for those who work at the park.
Centre for the Enhancement of traditional First Nations Art and Literature
Wanuskewin will play an important role in encouraging the development of traditional First Nations art, crafts and literature within Saskatchewan and throughout Canada.
In a variety of ways Wanuskewin Heritage Park will provide unprecedented opportunities for First Nations artists and writers. The connection between art and cultural health is well known.