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Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to be nominated for World Heritage Site

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By Jeff Morrow, Sweetgrass Writer







Another piece of Native history from southern Alberta could become a world heritage site. For the Treaty 7 Indian Bands, the writing is on the wall.

 Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, southeast of Lethbridge, has the largest concentration of ancient Aboriginal rock art in North America. This treasure-trove of Native artwork has been nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. If successful, it could join other cultural icons including Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon of Greece and, of course, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, south of Calgary.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park has been on Canada’s short-list for induction since 2004, but only recently have both the province and federal government been working closely with the Treaty 7 bands to get the site on UNESCO’s official list of historic locations.

“We have recognized Writing-on-Stone provincially and nationally because of the significance of its rock art,” said Camille Weleschuk, coordinator with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. “To this day, Aboriginal Elders consult the rock art to commune with the spirits, receive power and direction in life, and learn of their future. For about 4,000 years, Aboriginal people have stopped here in the course of their seasonal round.”

Blood Tribe member Frank Weaselhead helped spearhead the campaign to get the park recognized on the world stage. He believes the move will help preserve the area for future generations.

 “The area will be protected once it becomes a tourist attraction. Sure, there will be more visitors coming here, but the art will be guarded from the graffiti and further damage,” said Weaselhead.

Meetings will be held during the coming weeks with other Treaty 7 band members to iron out the next steps in the nomination process.

“We have the support. It’s a matter of preserving our culture, just like Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump. More government money will be pumped into the park once it becomes an attraction,” said Weaselhead.

 Alberta Tourism and Parks will also be hosting open houses and gathering feedback from local residents about the nomination process and the potential impact on their communities, said Weleschuk.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park has the highest concentration and greatest diversity of rock art, both images carved and painted on rock surfaces, on the Northern Plains of North America.

The property for the proposed World Heritage Site nomination is restricted to the boundaries of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park and does not include private land or public lease lands. The total size of the proposed nomination area is approximately 1,718 hectares and is owned and managed by the province.

The preliminary draft of the nomination will be ready for submission to the World Heritage Committee in February 2011.