- About Us
- Visiting the Park
- The Perfect Venue
- Seeking Knowledge
Park at a Glance
The word Wanuskewin (Wah-nus-KAY-win) is Cree for “living in harmony” or “seeking peace of mind”. It is an appropriate name for a place to which people have returned for thousands of years to learn from others about the land and its sacred relationship with the people; share stories, teachings and ceremonies; and to hunt the great bison of the Northern Plains.
Wanuskewin engages your imagination as soon as you enter its gates. Your first stop is the Park’s striking interpretive center, perched on the valley edge, overlooking Opimihaw Creek.
Upon arrival, you will experience the bison hunt as you pass through a series of stone cairns which mark a drive lane from centuries past. A woman and man maneuver the bison diverting them towards one of the buffalo jumps that are part of the park. Inside there are life-size mounted bison that walk with you towards the culmination of the hunt.
The gift shop and restaurant features high quality crafted items produced by local First nations artisans such as moccasins, horn jewelry, paintings, pottery and stone sculptures. The restaurant features a dining experience unique in itself. Its traditional First Nations cuisine focuses on bison prepared in various dishes, from stew to steak. The wild rice salad, bison sliders and freshly baked bannock are a must to sample.
There are two galleries on either side of the bison and there is a wall of screens that show vignettes of Wanuskewin. In the common area are two smart boards that have trivia games which will engage you while teaching you about First Nations people’s history. The galleries are ideally suited for travelling art and artifact exhibitions of all genres. A major fundraising campaign will be started in the near future to bring more exhibits to the Park and showcase an evolving culture of the Northern Plains people.
Across from the gift shop is the theatre that shows several videos including a 20 minutes video of Wanuskewin’s history and highlights some of the different aboriginal languages. The theatre can hold up to 60 people and this is where the orientation of the Park takes place. Just past the gift shop is the Great Wall with a 40 foot projection screen that has multi-projectors capable of showing video/audio content and slideshows of First Nation stories and presentations for various functions.
As you pass the Theatre and the Art Gallery, you will come upon an activity room where the visitor services staff holds a multitude of hands-on cultural programs for children of all ages. These activities, including children’s programming and storytelling, have been developed with our Elders over the last two decades with more new programs being added this year.
Next to the program room is the access doors to the trails and an outdoor ampitheater that holds up to 300 people with an audio system for many occasions such as the dance presentations in the summer. This amphitheatre is ideally suited for outdoor gatherings of various sizes and can be rented out for your own activities.
It is also at this point that the main trail, the Path of the People, provides a trail structure that leads into three other trail systems that encompass over six kilometres of the Park. The interpretive story focuses on the everyday lives of the First Peoples of the valley and of the prairies. As the trail winds its way down into the valley, you will find an outdoor activity area that hosts several tipis and a camping area known to be located here for many centuries. Just as our people would have utilized this sheltered area for so many centuries, this tipi village and outdoor programming area is available year round.
The Trail of Discovery leads north off the main trail. This trail focuses on the science of archeology and what it tells us about the way the First Nations people lived in the past. It is along this trail that you will come across the archaeologists from the University of Saskatchewan that do field research every year. They have unearthed a treasure trove of artifacts from 5,000 year old arrowheads to 3,000 year old bison bones that all speak of the history of this valley. If you are lucky enough to visit when the archaeologists are busy working in their most recent excavation site, called the Dog Child Site, they do take the time to answer any questions you might have and maybe let you hold an artifact that could be up to 6,000 years old. To this date there have been 21 pre-contact sites excavated within the valley.
The Trail of the Buffalo heads up onto the East prairie and offers people a magnificent view of the land and the South Saskatchewan River. Down below, where the Opimihaw Creek meets the South Saskatchewan River, you can imagine the fire-lit camps, hear the children playing, dogs barking and smell the evening meal the women are busily preparing. The experience of this trail is the interpretive story.
The Circle of Harmony begins in the valley and heads onto the South prairie and leads you to the circles of the tipi rings and the Medicine Wheel site. The importance of the circle and respect for Mother Earth are two of the stories being told here. Along the trails, encampments encourage people to imagine living on this land hundreds or thousands of years ago. Benches and appropriate signage further compliment the visitor’s outdoor experience.
The interpretive program tells five major stories: hunting, gathering, social lifestyles, archaeology, and reconnection. These inter-related stories and their subthemes are oriented around the four seasons. The program setting include the ampitheatre, the outdoor activity area and the trails themselves.
Back inside the building and next to the trail access doors is the Circle Area. This is where the Tipi raising program is conducted and currently the dance presentations are performed. This is a good time for question and answer time when visitors are able to ask questions about culture, dance, origin of the dancer’s regalia, what age the dancer started to dance and anything else you might be curious about. The dance presentations are different from day to day and range from Traditional dancers to Hoop dancers.
As you pass the Circle Area, there is a small bistro where you can have your lunch and watch the performances or just enjoy the scenery. There are many types of animals in the valley and deer have been known to come right up to the window and look in. There is also a large topographical model located between the circle and the bistro which details the four trail walking system.
Next to the bistro are five meeting rooms that can hold from 20 – 160 people. Some features of the meeting rooms are removable walls, audio visual compatibility, smart board rental, catering services and floor to ceiling windows with spectacular year-round views of the valley.
Wanuskewin offers a variety of experiences to the visitor. You can watch the archaeologists hard at work in the valley. You can learn how to set up a tipi. You can take leisurely walks where the bison once stood and smell the sage growing at your feet. How about a bison burger out on the patio while you enjoy the mid-afternoon sun. What ever your choice is, Wanuskewin is a special place because our shared experiences brings us all closer to Mother Earth, to other people, to ourselves, and to the Creator.
Come, join us in celebration and be part of this special place.