The Writing on Stone Provincial Park in Alberta has been named a UNESCO world heritage site and the writings of the Blackfoot are the reasons why.
The park features thousands of writings and pictographs from the Blackfoot ancestors dating back thousands of years.
Blackfoot Elder Randy Bottle takes people on tours of the writings on Stone Provincial Park.
“When people come here they are fascinated by the culture, and also the stories,” he said. “And also the experiences they have here.
“What they see. What the ancestors left behind. And how we can share that with the world.”
In Blackfoot it’s called Aisinai Pi – which means to mark or draw.
This is Bottle’s second season as a guide for Alberta Parks.
(Blackfoot Elder Randy Bottle has been taking people through the park for two years. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
60,000 people visit the park each year.
With the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designation that number may be going up.
It’s the sixth site in Alberta and 20th in Canada.
What people come here to see are the writings and pictographs carved into the sandstone about 2,000 years ago.
That’s about 100 generations ago – when ancient Rome was at its peak.
“Just think thousands of years ago when my ancestors were traveling through here. What they would think in the future,” Bottle said. “This is what we are learning from them. All of this information left behind was for us in the future. For us to learn from.
“All the knowledge and the lessons that go with the markings that have been left on the rock.”
“The drawing of the buffalo. And for us it’s very important because the buffalo is also a way of life for us,” said Bottle. “One of the greatest resources we ever had.
(There are hundreds of images on stones throughout the park. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
Everything we needed for survival came from one animal.”
The world heritage site was made possible by the Mookaakin Cultural Heritage Society.
Blackfoot Elder Martin Heavy Head just returned from Baku, Azerbaijan where Writing on Stone was official declared a world heritage site.
(At the moment, 60,000 people visit the park each year. That number is expected to rise with the UNESCO designation. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
It took 22 years of work to get it recognized.
“It’s sort of unreal at the moment. But I’m slowly getting back down to earth about the whole thing,” said Mookaakin.
Staring at various carved images, a beaver, arrows, and self-images, Bottle is carried back to a different time.
“I think we are very fortunate and blessed that we still have them here, so we can learn from the past,” he said.
“I call this place my own university because of what I am learning from all the messages that have been left behind by the ancestors.”))