Original Published on Jul 20, 2022 at 09:08

By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Waterton Lakes National Park celebrated the official opening of its  new visitor centre Tuesday 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.”

This item reprinted with permission from The Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta