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Wanuskewin gets ATL Group as new partner for UNESCO bid

Most of ATL Group's staff are former U of S archaeology students.

SASKATOON — Wanuskewin Heritage Park has earned another partner to help its bid of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ATL Group donating $70,000 to assist in preserving and storing critical archaeological materials.

The partnership was announced on Thursday, Feb. 2, with Wanuskewin CEO Darlene Brander and other park officials and ATL Group representatives led by Principal Brad Schiele.

The UNESCO Ready Campaign was also announced at the event. Brander said the heritage park is filled with many stories that can be told through the artifacts and other archaeological findings by Chief Archaeologist Dr. Ernie Walker and their partners from the University of Saskatchewan.

“The archaeological findings at the park perhaps most easily allow us to reach through time and connect to those who gathered here thousands of years ago. Wanuskewin has, proudly, been the fieldwork site for many emerging archaeologists from [U of S],” said Brander.

“Studying archaeological findings has played an important role in the historical understanding of pre-contact Northern Plains Indigenous Peoples, and we are excited to make space for these artifacts at the park.”

Wanuskewin has welcomed hundreds of U of S students, scientists, scholars, artists, historians, writers and other community partners for decades, with Walker leading the critical studies and archaeological digs during his time with the university’s Department of Anthropology.

Brander said the cash gift of ATL will be used to build an on-site archaeological storage facility. ATL Group was established in 2014 and comprised three independently operating companies: Atlheritage Services, Atlwest Communications and Atlas Geospatial.

“Not only is their gift a beautiful way to honour their relationship to Walker, their academic mentor – but also to Wanuskewin, for whom these artifacts hold great cultural significance,” added Brander.

Schiele said ATL Group has a personal connection to Wanuskewin as most of their staff are comprised of former U of S archaeology students and are all dedicated to supporting the Indigenous cultural heritage of the prairies.

“We have participated in field school out here, have witnessed and studied the almost 6,000 years of human occupation of this valley, and have been taught and mentored by one of its founders, Dr. Ernie Walker,” said Schiele.

“Supporting and contributing to the UNESCO Ready Campaign is much more than just a corporate donation for us; it’s an offering of gratitude to this land and the people who managed it.”

He added that having heritage consulting, heritage preservation and conducting Traditional Land Use studies for Indigenous communities as their core services, it is fitting they support Wanuskewin’s bid to become Saskatchewan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Elders and founding members of the heritage park knew the importance of sharing the archaeological findings with U of S to establish a long-term partnership. With Atlheritage Services’ support, preserving the artifacts is integral to becoming Saskatchewan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wanuskewin Director of Development Alan Long said Walker has created a lasting legacy when he started working at the heritage park. His leadership is valued by the graduate students who helped bring the vital history to light for this community and all Canadians.

“Through the UNESCO Ready Campaign, Wanuskewin is now poised to bring this story to the world. Atlwest Communications will be a key partner in engaging stakeholders as the Wanuskewin team brings together a compelling application for submission to UNESCO. A safe and intact archeological record is a key component of that work, so we could not be happier with this incredible gift by ATL Group,” said Long.

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