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Alberta’s Writing-on-Stone Preserves Blackfoot Heritage Despite Ongoing Vandalism – Lethbridge

Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi Provincial Park is home to a historically rich site in southern Alberta containing Blackfoot carvings.

After years of advocacy, in 2019 Writing-on-Stone joined five other Alberta sites, such as the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Suzanne Lodermeier, supervisor of the park’s visitor services program, said the designation adds another layer of protection for the area.

“(The Niitsitapi peoples) only the written history is here – or some of the written history, I guess – is here in Áísínai’pi,” she explained. “They actually carved or wrote with paint on the rocks themselves.”

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The park’s visitor center opened on Friday, just in time for the May long weekend.

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It is full of educational material for the public to use, which Lodermeier says is an essential aspect of appreciating and protecting the landscape and the sculptures.

Indigenous peoples continue to access the sacred site for ceremonial purposes and to view the rock art.

“There was of course a time in history when they weren’t allowed to come and practice their culture, their traditions here at the park,” Lodermeier continued.

“So we’re really working to get people to know the whole story.”

As a provincial park, it offers camping and access to Milk River.

Lethbridge resident Rory Gibson visited the park for the first time on Saturday.

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Camping plans have been flooded for some this May

Camping plans have been flooded for some this May – May 20, 2022

“I’ve actually worked here a bit and am (driving) for work. I’ve never been here before and love to hike and walk around,” he said, adding that he would recommend the park to other beginners.

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“Especially if you live in southern Alberta, even in Calgary it’s worth coming for a day or camping.”

Writing-on-Stone also offers guided tours.

Former Kainai and park interpreter Saa’kokoto has worked at the park for about five years, taking audiences across the country.

He calls it the Blackfoot Culture Archive.

“It’s an opportunity to share the rich culture, and also to really bring the spirit into the stories and share the rich culture, how people lived on the land, how they survived,” he said. -he declares.

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“The way (the tour participants) get the information is really important, and they’ve been very respectful, they ask a lot of questions,” Saa’kokoto continued.

While many visitors are cautious and respectful, others ignore warnings against graffiti and vandalism.

A walk through the trails will show signs of more recent engravings, such as initials.

“There was the archaeological reserve that was set up in the 1970s and that certainly helped limit access to that area where the greatest concentration of rock art is, and that certainly helped protect that area from further vandalism,” Lodermeir said.

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However, the hoodoo exploration area between the visitor center and the campground continues to be a prime target, Lodermeier said.

She added that not all rock art can be seen with the naked eye, but is only visible with the help of special color programming. They work to protect everything.

“It’s illegal to engrave on the stones and a lot of people don’t know that,” Lodermeier said. “We try to communicate this to our visitors in order to protect the site for future generations.”

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