Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a gathering place. In fact, it’s been a gathering place for over 6,000 years. Many different First Nations tribes were drawn to the valley, meeting there for hunting, trade, and ceremony. In the 21st century, Wanuskewin is a place of assembly for people, tourism, business, and more. And the programming, museum, art, even the restaurant are all informed by that 6,000 years of history.
“We work to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous peoples,” says Sales and Marketing Manager, Andrew McDonald. “Wanuskewin will be the living reminder of the peoples’ sacred relationship with the land.”
As a cultural meeting place, Wanuskewin is one of the first tourist attractions that people from Saskatoon bring out of town visitors. Sightseers from around the globe come to take in this unique archeological site.
“You’ll have someone from Tokyo sitting next to someone from Tisdale,” says McDonald. “It’s a community gathering space for First Nations and non-First Nations alike.”
In addition to the breathtaking valley vistas, Wanuskewin features exhibits, dance performances, tours and walks, and workshops that serve to remind us of the history of the land. There’s also a restaurant that seats about 60 people, serving traditional ingredients in contemporary ways.
“In 2016, we were selected as one of the Top 10 Tastiest Indigenous Restaurants by Food Network Canada,” says McDonald. “We were also selected by ‘Tourism Industry of Canada as the 2016 Top Aboriginal Tourism Destination in Canada.’”
Wanuskewin is also a facility for conference and business meetings, with excellent catering and conference rooms that offer beautiful views of the valley. During breakout sessions, guests are invited go for a quick walk on the trails, or take in the art gallery.
“You can even customize your experience,” adds McDonald. “You can bring in a dancer or invite an elder to do a morning prayer.”
Recently, Wanuskewin made a bid to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites are chosen because they have cultural, historical, or scientific significance and they’re legally protected by international treaties because they’re considered important to humanity. If they’re selected, they’ll be among sites like Stonehenge, The Taj Mahal, or The Grand Canyon.
“This would be something for all of Saskatchewan to be proud of,” says McDonald. “A world class destination.”
There’s a lot going on at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, but more than anything, it’s a relaxing, mind-clearing experience that brings you closer to the land, closer to history. In fact, in the Cree language, wânaskêwin means, “Seeking peace of mind.”
“We’re only five minutes away from the city and ten minutes from airport,” says McDonald, “but it really feels like you’ve gone back in time. It’s an opportunity to slow down and reflect.”