Powerful community volunteers to help Wanuskewin
- EFN Staff | June 22, 2016
Wanuskewin Heritage Park has revealed their campaign team in charge of fundraising $25 million dollars for the renovation and expansion of the Park. The draw of Wanuskewin and the importance of the project has helped recruit some of Saskatchewan’s most influential business and political leaders onto the board.
Esteemed archaeologist and the man considered the founder of Wanuskewin, Ernie Walker, is also on the committee and the others are feeding off of his passion for the site.
“Wanuskewin is transcendent. For six thousand years First Nations peoples were attracted to this island on the prairies. There are deep cultural roots here,” said Walker. “In a way, Wanuskewin has always been about community through the ages and today we are poised to carry this legacy far off into the future.”
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Walker spoke at an event at the park revealing the powerful board behind the fundraising. Zeba Ahmad of EY moderated the announcement of her fellow volunteers; a stellar group of Indigenous and non‐Indigenous leaders from many sectors. Committed to the initiative are: Scott Banda, Chief Executive Officer of Federated Co‐operatives Ltd.; Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation; L. David Dubé, President and CEO of the Concorde Group Corp.; Blaine Favel, Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan; Tim Gitzel, President and CEO of Cameco; Grant Isaac, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Cameco; George Lafond, S.O.M.; Kelly J. Lendsay, President and CEO of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council; Gary Merasty, President and Chief Operating Officer of Des Nedhe Development; W. Thomas Molloy, O.C.; Robert Stromberg, Q.C.; Jochen Tilk, President and CEO of PotashCorp; Ron Waldman, Partner of NorthStar Hospitality; and Dr. Ernest Walker, O.C., Archaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan. Wayne Brownlee, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of PotashCorp and Chief Felix Thomas, Tribal Chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council have committed to raising funds as Campaign Co‐Chairs. There is also a steering committee of Leanne Bellegarde, Director Diversity and Inclusion PotashCorp, Dawn Deguire, Director of Communications at the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Keith Martell, Chairman and CEO of First Nations Bank of Canada and Dana Soonias, the CEO of Wanuskewin.
Part of Wanuskewin’s exciting vision for renewal is to apply to become Saskatchewan’s first United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
“It is perhaps only once in a lifetime that you have the opportunity to become involved with a project that can be ‘iconic’, not only in Saskatoon or Saskatchewan, but within Canada and the world,” said Wayne Brownlee. “Going back in time, Wanuskewin is one of those iconic places, and this is a once‐in‐a‐lifetime initiative. It is the birthplace of our civilization, and yes, the pre‐curser to modern‐day Saskatoon.”
“We owe it to ourselves and our children's children to preserve develop and embrace this celebration of survival and coming together. This has motivated our entire campaign team and should motivate all of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan,” added Brownlee.
Wanuskewin has been a draw for First Nations from around Saskatchewan for centuries. Gary Merasty is from Pelican Narrows but even his band had ties to the area.
“We were told that our first Chief was adopted from down the river...meaning this area here. This place is for all nations and it shows our interconnectedness,” said Merasty. “When we see the bison come back and that energy they have. It will lead to a revival in not only culture and language but spirituality as well.”
The team has been approaching railroad companies, banks and other giant industries making requests for donations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and to do that, you really have to believe in the cause. And they do, and all the board members listen to Ernie Walker.
“When we were first figuring out this place in 1984, we had a sweat lodge with many elders,” said Walker. “They all had different reasons for coming to the sweat but one elder said as we were coming out of the sweat, “We are doing this because it is bigger than all of us.” We have big aspirations here at Wanuskewin. This place has always been about community and what we do here can signal nationally that our community is doing something different.”