“Both First Nations and non-First Nations people come to this park, and a lot of them say ‘When I come out here I feel different,’” says Ernie Walker, a professor in the department of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, about Wanuskewin Heritage Park, an Indigenous cultural site a 15-minute drive from downtown Saskatoon. Here, the park’s elder, Jake Sanderson, shares thoughts on Wanuskewin’s importance and why and how visitors may feel different there.
On the importance of Wanuskewin
Wanuskewin is a very important place to all people because it is a spiritual place. It is a very humble place. A very peaceful place where people can come and visit and do offerings and prayers. People want to visit the culture of our First Nations people. Wanuskewin is an education place for all people to come and learn about Aboriginal stories and Aboriginal culture itself. It’s a part of history.
On the medicine wheel
I describe it as a gift from a creator. It’s a gift to all the people, to all the animals and everything in this world and in this universe. Medicine wheels are the most important part in our lives today. We go back and visit the medicine wheel to connect back to part of our healing, that wellness of everything that was created, and everything that needed help, health and wellness and strength. It was a spirit that put those sacred places there. And that spirit would come to give the people directions of how to do the ceremony itself. The spokes were points to different sacred places on Turtle Island and the world. We still do our offerings there. We do the ceremonies and we acknowledge the spirit of what keeps us strong, not only health wise, but of everything that lives here upon Mother Earth.
On the prophesies about Wanuskewin
Our prophets had ancient stories: big changes will come to the people and even to Mother Earth. But the prophets had stories of how we can help ourselves and how we can avoid things from happening. Those prophets were very gifted people, and these times in our lives and what they have prophesied today, how things would change and how we can help give back and restore that energy of life, that’s what’s needed again. A long time ago, they say life was very strong. It was very good, clean, and it was very spiritual. And that is why today things have changed.
On happiness at Wanuskewin
Wanuskewin brings people together. It’s not only First Nations people, but people from around the world that come and visit. They visit, but they bring us happiness when they come there. It’s always nice to see other nations come and shake hands and tell us their stories from where they come and about their people. It’s always educational, and it helps us in our journey. We all live in this world together. What we have is that gift of life. They always bring us positive engery and happiness, and this is what I see that happens at Wanuskewin. It’s always makes us feel good that we’re all happy, that we’re all in this together, as all life.