Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi becomes as Canada’s newest World Heritage site
July 11, 2019
Global Korean Post
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.
Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, in Alberta, was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. This ancient and sacred place became as Canada’s twentieth World Heritage site.
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.
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 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.
Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi is fully contained within the boundaries of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, in the province of Alberta. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is managed by Alberta Parks, with ongoing guidance from the elders of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Áísínai’pi is the name that Blackfoot people use for the area, which means “it is pictured/written”. This ancient name was also formally recognized through the designation of Áísínai’pi as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004, the same year it was added to Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage.
There are over 1,000 sites on the World Heritage List worldwide.