Op-ed: Why you should support Wanuskewin's Thundering Ahead Campaign
- John Lagimodiere | April 25, 2017
Wanuskewin Heritage Park is one of my favourite places on earth and a Saskatchewan cultural institution that must be cherished and nourished. So it has been great news that the Thundering Ahead Campaign was recently launched to revitalize the Park. The $40 million campaign is led by Saskatoon’s business and political elite and co chaired by Wayne Brownlee of PotashCorp and Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas.
I have done countless Aboriginal awareness seminars in that place with my partner Winston McLean. And believe me, over the past 20 years we have found no better place in the world for an Aboriginal awareness seminar. Most memorable was delivering awareness to all of the City of Saskatoon Police Service after the Darrel Knight case way back in 2002-2003. Those cops kept Winston and I on our toes, but what was memorable was watching Elder Walter Linklater smudge with the officers and share his residential school story. How he had their attention and respect. And how the Police Service changed after those seminars.
I photographed Prince Charles there on a hot and windy day in May 2001 when he received the Cree name Kisikawpisim-kamiyowahpahm ikot (The Sun Shines on Him in a Good Way). I sat and kept fire with my friends and my son in a teepee on the hill during the Walking With Our Sisters moccasin vamp exhibit. Met Allen Sapp and got him to sign his book.
I think of the numerous community events, press conferences and historic signings like the Treaty Land Entitlement deal in 1992. Seeing the giant bison skull donated to the park by the Province of Saskatchewan. Meeting Dr. Ernie Walker and hearing him tell the story of Wanuskewin and how it came to be. Seeing hundred of kids swarm the Olympic Torch bearers when they visited Wanuskewin. I think of watching with glee as the Park was featured on the Amazing Race Canada.
And how many cultural celebrations have I been to out there? The annual powwow is a must see. Or conferences? Or just sitting and listening to Elders. I think of the walks on the paths. The people, the place, the sights, the feel and the food make for a great experience. Just being on the land in the Park makes a person better. Clear in the head. Peaceful.
I also remember being part of the first exhibit renewal team back in the day. That experience didn’t go so well and the park went into crisis. Remember that? Those days are long gone and I couldn’t be more excited about the future. You should be too.
The Thundering Ahead campaign is such a worthy investment...and it’s not just up to the corporations. Small businesses, service groups and individuals can contribute as well. The return will be well worth it. Imagine in 25 years when the Park is surrounded by city and it is an oasis of bison, natural fields, paths, ceremony and a place of learning and experiencing First Nation culture for everyone. By then it will be a deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and tourists from around the world will come here to visit us and our lands and our place. And, we hope, witness the place where the Pope once held a public mass and apologized for the Catholic Churches role in the Indian residential school system. Imagine. I can hear the hoof beats already.
We did some creative writing for April Fools and posted a story on our website (Still there if you want to read it) about starting a business called The Half Breed and the Indian and how my buddy Winston and I got a contract from the City of Saskatoon to kill all the rabbits running around the city. We for sure got one reader who posted her outrage on our Facebook page at her resentment to the name of our company and her disgust that the city would support such a barbaric practice. She eventually removed the posting. Gotcha! We love April Fools. That made it so worthwhile....in the meantime, if you do have a rabbit problem, you know who to call.