Million dollar plan moves Wanuskewin another step closer to UNESCO designation dream
- NC Raine | February 10, 2017
A multi-million dollar renewal plan and campaign has been launched in an effort to make Wanuskewin Heritage Park one of Canada’s premiere cultural destinations.
The announcement of the Thundering Ahead campaign was made by Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas and Wayne Brownlee, the Vice-President and CFO of PotashCorp who is co-chairing the campaign, on Thursday, February 9th, at a full house in Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon.
The renewal plan is backed by a $40 million dollar capital campaign goal, roughly two-thirds of which has already been raised. Fifteen million of that total will go towards acquiring land to expand park boundaries, which is necessary for consideration of as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Wanuskewin will be a great park,” said campaign co-chair and Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas at the campaign announcement. “What Wanuskewin means for First Nations people, it's almost like our Vatican. A place of worship. It has to be preserved.”
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A UNESCO designation recognizes that particular landmark as a place of extraordinary cultural, historical or scientific significance, the sites of which are legally protected by international treaties. There are currently 18 UNESCO World Heritage designations in Canada. Wanuskewin would be the first UNESCO heritage site in Saskatchewan.
“Our vision and goal is to make this iconic,” said Wayne Brownlee, co-chair of Thundering Ahead, and Executive Vice President and CFO at PotashCorp. “Iconic for Saskatoon. Iconic for Saskatchewan. And iconic for Canada and the world as a meeting place and symbolic head for truth and reconciliation, and the spirit of the province.”
The renewal will not only reintroduce exhibit galleries and improve educational offerings, it will also mark the return of Plains bison to the area, as land expansions will include a base to be home for a small herd.
“This renewal represents something significant for Wanuskewin,” said Wanuskewin Board Chair Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, “Yes, it’s about offering a more robust visitor experience at World Heritage standards, but it’s also about the people who came before us. We acknowledge that these lands have been occupied for 6,400 years, and future success lies in continuing to come together as a community in this space.”
“When we talk about the bison returning – you'll see what a majestic animal it is. When you see fifty of those thundering across the field, you'll never experience anything else like that. You're going to feel it in your heart and your soul, and that's what Wanuskewin can do for you,” said Chief Thomas.
With over 6,000 years of history, the park has emphasized what it calls “four pillars” to represent renewal to ensure Wanuskewin remains a cultural, environmental, spiritual, and economic leader in Saskatchewan.
“The effort put together by the Thundering Ahead campaign will shape this region into the future for our province, our city, and the surrounding communities,” said Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark.
“I believe is going to be more and more valuable to the generations that come - to have a chance to reconnect with the long history of this place,” said Mayor Clark.
Last August, Wanuskewin and the City of Saskatoon announced the long-term lease of approximately 375 acres of adjacent city-owned lands at $1 per year for 99 years in order to obtain the land required to apply for a UNESCO designation.
There are no set dates as to when the developments will commence or bison to arrive, but Thundering Ahead campaign leaders say the project should be complete within three years.