The campaign to have Wanuskewin Heritage Park designated as a United Nations world heritage site got a big boost Tuesday.
The Mosaic Company announced a $500,000 donation to the park's UNESCO Ready Campaign.
Wanuskewin, located just outside Saskatoon's northern edge, has been a gathering place for Indigenous people for more than 6,000 years, according to archeological records. Bison were re-introduced to the site in 2019.
Wanuskewin also has ancient campsites under excavation, as well as buffalo jumps that were used by Indigenous people thousands of years ago.
The park is looking to become the first UNESCO heritage site in Saskatchewan.
UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designation is considered the gold standard for cultural and scientific sites internationally, and the highest recognition for a protected heritage area. The Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal are examples of world heritage sites.
Tuesday's funding announcement was made at the Mamaweyatitan Centre in Regina.
Darlene Brander, Wanuskewin's CEO, spoke at the announcement about what the designation would mean.
"The impact that a UNESCO designation will have will be fairly significant. It's going to impact tourism, so you're going to see tourism numbers increase," she said. "When it's so closely situated to a large urban centre, what UNESCO research has told us is that the numbers increased by 20 per cent."
Wanuskewin has previously been listed by Canada as a potential future UNESCO site. Tuesday's money is meant to go toward the preparation of the park's application package for designation. Once the package is ready it will be sent to Parks Canada, which will then take it to UNESCO for a decision on the designation. The goal is to have everything done by 2025 or 2026.
Mosaic's senior vice president Bruce Bodine spoke at Tuesday's announcement about why Wanuskewin is worthy of the designation.
"You do feel something very special as you walk the trails, see the old bison jumps and things like that, and hear of how sacred that place was for so many Indigenous people," Bodine said. "To bring that awareness, bring recognition to that and allow more and more people to come — I think that UNESCO designation will just raise that awareness."