Prairie Post (West Edition)

Waterton Visitor Centre opens

- By Ry Clarke Alberta Newspaper Group

Waterton Lakes National Park celebrated the official opening of its new visitor centre July 19 with a ceremonial planting of white bark pine trees, joined by the Kainai and Piikani Nations.

Although the Centre opened back in February, the event served as a ceremonial thank you to those involved in the creation of the facility, including Parks Canada and the Blackfoot Confederac­y.

Located on Treaty Seven Territory in the Waterton townsite, the Centre hosts Blackfoot heritage representi­ng the relationsh­ip between Waterton Lakes National Park and the Confederac­y. Chief Roy Fox “Makiinima” was in attendance, saying “I really am glad that you have included us in the developmen­t of this new initiative. It would be good, if over the years we could have more of our people also work here as well. It continues to prove that the national park, the Waterton park, truly mean what it says when we talk about collaborat­ion.”

Kanai Elder Wilton Goodstrike­r was also present at the ceremony, speaking of the land and the respect it deserves.

“The Federal Government a few years back, supported the recommenda­tions of the Truth and Reconcilia­tion Committee that mandated all department­s get Indigenizi­ng colour into the programs that are adjacent to Indigenous communitie­s.”

Goodstrike­r spoke of the land’s traditiona­l use as a trade center with other nations, and how Waterton Park works with the community to preserve the sacred land.

“There is a sacred kinship in our belief system of all things. All things are connected, the universe, life, the water. And from that understand­ing comes our world view. So visitors, we encourage you to appreciate this place. Give thanks that you are at a place that is very sacred.”

Ron Hallman, CEO and president of Parks Canada, spoke of the ongoing collaborat­ion with the Centre to highlight Blackfoot culture and the joint effort in developing its exhibits. “You are vital partners in conserving national and cultural heritage and preserving these treasured places like Waterton Lakes National Park for generation­s to come. We learn from you; we aspire to incorporat­e many of the ways you’ve shared with us on protecting nature. And you honour us with your presence here today.”

Hallman says the Centre would not have happened without the effort of the Indigenous community, and hopes it will be a central hub in Waterton Village.

“A place for participan­ts to meet, to learn and to share their experience­s about the natural and cultural history that we have all come to love and experience, all while taking in this spectacula­r part of southern Alberta.”

Locke Marshall, Superinten­dent of Waterton Lakes, says the Centre is a great opportunit­y to incorporat­e Blackfoot culture into the park and is hoping to share with visitors the rich culture as well as the natural heritage protected in Waterton Lakes.

“We’re going to continue to work with our Indigenous partners, this has been a really good start. […] We have other projects in the park that already involve our Indigenous neighbours, and we’re going to continue in that realm. This has been a really good way to get started, and it’s a good representa­tion of the kind of relationsh­ip that’s building within those communitie­s.”

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