Monday, July 8, 2019

The Government of Canada celebrates Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi as Canada’s Newest World Heritage Site

Shantel Harris -
O t t a w a ,   O n t a r i o ,   C a n a d a - 

Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, in Alberta
World Heritage sites represent some of humanity’s most outstanding achievements and nature’s most inspiring creations. They are considered to have Outstanding Universal Value, and are protected for the benefit of all humanity.

Today, Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, in Alberta, was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, took the opportunity to celebrate this ancient and sacred place as Canada’s twentieth World Heritage site, and to congratulate those involved in developing and presenting its nomination.

This significant achievement follows more than 10 years of dedication by the Government of Alberta and the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the Mookaakin Cultural and Heritage Society, with guidance and advice from Parks Canada. The site has been on Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage since 2004.

Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi is an ancient and sacred cultural landscape where Indigenous peoples have created rock art for millennia. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs, the greatest concentration of rock art on the Great Plains of North America, represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape, and chronicle critical phases of human history in North America, including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans.

With an exceptional combination of culturally significant landforms, rock art, archaeological heritage, and dramatic views, Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi (“it is pictured/written”) is a sacred place for the Blackfoot people. In Blackfoot traditions, Sacred Beings dwell among the cliffs and hoodoos, and the voices of the ancestors can be heard among the canyons and cliffs. To this day the Blackfoot feel the energy of the Sacred Beings at Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, and their oral histories and ongoing ceremonial use of the site attest to the living traditions of the Blackfoot people.

The decision to inscribe Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List was made by the World Heritage Committee during its annual meeting, which is taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The timing of this inscription is fitting as 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Indigenous languages are an essential part of the cultural fabric of Canada and play a critical role in safeguarding Indigenous knowledge, cultural practices, worldviews, spiritual values, intergenerational learning, and the history of the landscape we know as Canada. The Government of Canada recently recognized the importance of Indigenous languages through the passage of the Indigenous Languages Act, which will reclaim, revitalize, strengthen, and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada.

In celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages and the inscription of this new World Heritage site, Canadians are encouraged to help support the revitalization of Indigenous languages in Canada, and are invited to visit Canada’s network of heritage places to learn more about Indigenous languages, knowledge, cultures, and traditions.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada said:

“I am pleased to welcome Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi to Canada’s family of UNESCO World Heritage sites. This sacred place for the Blackfoot people is now officially recognized as a cultural landscape of global significance. World Heritage sites, such as Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell stories of who we are, including the histories, cultures, and contributions of Indigenous peoples. I would like to congratulate the Government of Alberta, the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Mookaakin Cultural and Heritage Society, and all those who played a role in the inscription of this international treasure. During the International Year of Indigenous Languages, I encourage all Canadians to explore Canada’s network of heritage places to learn more about the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

Martin Heavy Head, Elder, Mookaakin Cultural and Heritage Society / Blackfoot Confederacy said:

“For the Blackfoot people, Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi is the very heart of our ancestral land, and we believe that this place has a powerful role to play in teaching others around the world about the sacred landscape of our people. As a World Heritage site, Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi will help us continue to share our traditions, and be an inspiration to all who seek to understand their own deep and personal connections to the land.”


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