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Grad students are playing key roles as Wanuskewin seeks designation as a UNESCO world heritage site

We had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Ernie Walker, Tara Janzen and the entire Wanuskewin team. Exciting to see the work continue on the UNESCO World Heritage Site application process!

Grad students begin another year of work at Wanuskewin Heritage Park

Tara Janzen knows her graduate thesis isn’t simply going to sit on a shelf.

The University of Saskatchewan student is one of four graduate students working out of Wanuskewin Heritage Park this year. Her work, like that of many students before her, will be instrumental in the park’s efforts to become Saskatchewan’s first United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site.

“Where Wanuskewin is so special is that the academic research has a practical application and an impact,” Janzen said.

“In order to become a world heritage site, you have to demonstrate that you have outstanding universal value to all of humanity — so, no small feat.”

Along with Janzen, graduate students Honey Constant, Katie Willie and Bailey Pelletier are being supervised this year by Dr. Ernie Walker, one of the founders of Wanuskewin and an archaeology professor at the U of S.

Willie and Pelletier are studying items recovered from dig sites in the park, which served as a gathering place for First Nations of people over thousands of years. Constant is working on designing interpretive programs from a First Nations perspective.

Janzen’s thesis is essentially to prepare a draft of the application the park will make to the UNESCO seeking designation on the organization’s list of world heritage sites.

“They aren’t all analyzing artifacts, they’re kind of all over the place,” Walker said.

Walker has been supervising grad students at Wanuskewin for the last 40 years and said the site offers excellent opportunities for training scientists.

“It’s one of the premiere archaeological assemblages in Canada and certainly on the Northern Plains,” he said.

Walker added that students also benefit from the numerous visitors who come to the site — requiring them to learn how to interact and present their research to the public.

“Yes, we’re here to make scientists out of them, but we’re also here to have the general broad intellectual scope,” he said.

Janzen, who did her undergraduate degree in business, originally began working at Wanuskewin about five years ago to head up a capital campaign to fund a programme of grassland restoration, renovations and work to return a herd of bison to the area.

She said that led to conversations with Walker on how to get the UNESCO application put together ultimately saw her choose to undertake a master’s degree, drafting the application as her thesis.

She explained that her work relies heavily on the students who have come before her.

“Our world heritage application is really taking that body of work, this accumulation of 70 theses and dissertations and 40 years of research and, sort of, packaging it up into something that a world heritage committee can work through.”

First Nations have been involved with Wanuskewin since it was founded and Janzen said her project also incorporates traditional knowledge, including interviews with elders.

“Just ensuring that we’re looking at everything through both lenses. That we look at it through sort of the best of what Western science has to offer and also the best of what Indigenous ways of knowing and seeing are. So everything has that balanced viewpoint.”

Janzen said she enjoys studying and working in an environment that encourages diversity.

“For me personally I feel so happy that there are four of us at Wanuskewin — three of us are people of colour or minorities, two are Indigenous and all of us are women. I think that also speaks to the diversity that Wanuskewin pulls in.”

Wanuskewin launched an ambitious $40-million fundraising campaign in 2016 to support the park’s efforts to become a UNESCO world heritage site. Those funds will go toward expanding the park, bringing in a herd of bison, renovating the interpretive centre and building a new RV park and campground.

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Supporting the Nutrien Backpack Giveaway

We were thrilled to sponsor and volunteer at the Nutrien Backpack Giveaway and Carnival at White Buffalo Youth Lodge! This event, organized by the Saskatoon Tribal Council, aims to provide kids with necessary school supplies so they feel prepared for the school year. 2,500 backpacks and school supplies were given out!

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