I treated myself to an afternoon at Wanuskewin, an incredibly beautiful unspoiled natural prairie landscape, to relive the stories and lifestyles of the Northern Plains Indians who have gathered at this one meeting place for over 6.000 years – a place where the original North Americans met newcomers to the continent in a spirit of sharing and hospitality.
In the first Nations community it is remembered as a resting place – a place of spiritual renewal were you can find peace of mind.
I walked in places were hunters once stampeded massive buffaloes over cliffs, and stood on the lower grounds were hunters waited to kill the survivors of the fall. I walked on trails were archaeologists found and still unearth a treasure trove of artifacts from 5.000 year old arrowheads to 3.000 year old bison bones that all speak of the history of this valley and make this region the longest running archaeological site in Canada.
There is evidence that many generations used this place. Ring of stones show that once tipis stood there. These tipi stones are “tent pegs” of the past used to hold down the edges of their conical skin tents or tipis.
The Medicine Wheel, a sacred hoop, is one of the most mysterious remains of the nomadic tribes who roamed here. Set amid the prairie grassland on a plateau overlooking the South Saskatchewan River, the wheel is a circular boulder alignment that sits at the end of the circle of the Harmony Trail. It’s one of the last 70 medicine wheels scattered over North America and no two are alike. Some are made up of a single ring, some have double rings, and some are shaped like stars. The wheel is a cairn in the center of a ring of lichen-encrusted limestone boulders, most likely used to conduct ceremonies. The elders believe this is one of the most sacred sites of the northern plains tribes still intact.
A walk of discovery through the visitor center will answer many questions about the way First Nations people lived and worked and how their way of life focused on respect for the land, animals and other people.
I surrounded myself with first nations art, music and collected works in the fine art gallery, where creations of master artisans with skills attained by tradition and age-old practices, are exhibited.
This painting is in honor of Metis women’s connection to the horse nation. Historically many Metis woman worked with horses and they were a significant part of Metis culturally life on the prairies. The beautiful pink flower represents Metis woman and the two dancing snakes represent the musical rhythm that the horse nation hooves bring to the earth and all the beings that have the honor of listening to this musical cadence.
I sat in the Amphitheatre were a female dancer in full regalia performed native dances. The circular layout of the theater gave the event the intimacy of a room and offered the open sky as a ceiling. It overlooks the valley in a beautiful setting.
To day you can take advantage and plan an overnight stay and sleep in one of the tipis in the Opimihaw valley - sit around the fire and listen to traditional stories and learn about first nations traditional living, enjoy a traditional meal of bison stew and bannock, muskeg tea and Saskatoon berry tarts, and take part in the many cultural programs according to once specific interest.