Becoming Wanuskewin CEO a type of homecoming
- Angela Hill | March 23, 2019
On March 4, Darlene Brander became the new CEO of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, returning to the place that has been part of her life for decades.
“It’s going full circle for me,” said Brander, who walked the trails after her wedding 25 years ago and worked at the park in the late 90s, coordinating Aboriginal awareness education programs.
While Brander studied education the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, (now First Nations University of Canada), and taught for a few years in Saskatchewan’s northwest, her time at working at Wanuskewin marked a transition.
Brander started to fulfil her personal mandate: “serve and give back to the community in what way I can.” She believes in planning for the future and figuring out what impact you want to have.
Brander grew a career in human resources through the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, City of Saskatoon and Athabasca Catering Limited Partnership and volunteering with Saskatoon Aboriginal Professionals Association board.
Brander said the best piece of advice she received is, “if there is a door of opportunity, you go through it.”
Her biggest piece of advice for women starting their careers is simple.
“It’s important that they prioritize themselves, that they take care of themselves physically, mentally, spiritually, so that they are the best versions of themselves, so when they go to give back to the world, they have a good foundation.”
Brander sits on the Children’s Discovery Museum board (now Nutrien Wonderhub), and the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, where she has been the chair since 2016.
During Brander’s tenure as police board chair, Troy Cooper became Saskatoon’s police chief. He said Brander serves a special role on the board and “does an excellent job” in her role explaining the work of the police to the community.
“She has guided the board into looking more to the community around expectations around policing,” Cooper said.
Brander chaired the human resources and nominating committee at the children’s museum.
“I am very lucky Darlene saw in me what the [Nutrien Wonderhub] needed,” executive director Amanda McReynolds Doran said.
“In addition to being a great presence, she is very introspective, very thoughtful and considers all the different angles of our decision items.”
Doran said she was happy to learn Brander would take the helm at Wanuskewin.
“Wanuskewin is bringing someone on board who understands the transition they are going through,” Doran said. “She really has a great vision for celebrating those achievements.”
Brander said she is looking forward to implementing the four-part plan at the park: creating the centre of excellence; preserving the valley; the returning of the bison, which is set for 2020; and becoming a UNESCO heritage site.
Wanuskewin is a world class facility, Brander said.
“I want to bring it to the next level, so when you walk through the door at Wanuskewin you feel that you’ve come home. I want everybody to feel like that and that you want to come back home again, and you want to bring some people with you.”