By Jamie Rieger
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is the recipient of a gold award from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada for its collaborative program that included the hiring of two Blackfoot interns who shared their culture and stories with visitors.
Throughout the 2013 tourism season, the interns interacted with 4,000 visitors, teaching them about the spiritual significance of the area that has been important to the Blackfoot people for thousands of years.
The sacred land is still used by First Nations leaders to observe their history, which is depicted in rock art placed years ago and they still perform ceremonies to communicate with the spirit world at Writing-on-Stone.
“The experience and learning that this program has provided to the community, as well as visitors to Writing-on-Stone, is very valuable. It’s important that our community and people are represented in a factual way, and this program can teach visitors that may have a certain view of native people that we are something more than a stereotype,” said Martin Heavy Head, Mookakin Cultural and Heritage Society.
The interns were hired under the First Nations Interpretations Internship program that was developed by the Tourism, Parks and Recreation, which worked with Aboriginal Relations and Canadian Badlands Ltd.
“This initiative is a fantastic example of an investment in communities that has led to opportunities for tourism growth, as well as the development of First Nations leaders. It’s an Alberta success story, demonstrating the value of collaboration, partnerships, and innovation,” said Dr. Richard Starke, minister of tourism, parks, and recreation.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park won gold in the Public Sector Leadership award while the First Nations Interpretation Internship program won gold in the federal/provincial/territorial category, the first win for an Alberta government program in this category.