Six thousand years ago, indigenous people in what is now Canada began visiting Wanuskewin. A gentle valley under the vast sky of the Great Plains, the site became a gathering spot for cultural events and rituals. Now, Wanuskewin is a Heritage Park located just 15 minutes outside of the city of Saskatoon. It continues celebrating the First Nations of the Plains with guided walks, a shop offering Native-made goods, and a menu inspired by the natural bounty of the Great Plains landscape—including bison, which people native to this area have hunted for thousands of years.
Visitors to the park can sample this all-important protein with a contemporary take—the bison burger, topped with bison bacon and housed in a bannock bun—or in a more traditional stew. The Three Sisters soup, meanwhile, consisting of corn, squash, and beans, allows the vegetarians among us to taste the landscape, as well. Those who prefer not to eat bison may soon be able to meet them, as the park has plans to introduce a herd of bison as part of ongoing renovations.
To digest your meal, take a stroll through the park to view any of the 19 archaeological sites that have been part of Canada’s longest-running dig. Archaeologists have found tipi rings, plant seeds, pottery fragments, and animal bones in the park, evoking the daily lives of the groups who flourished here. The most unique find is the medicine wheel, a stone cairn surrounded by a 43-foot-wide stone arrangement, located at the highest point in the park with a panoramic view of the rolling hills. Dating back at least 1,500 years, it’s one of 100 known medicine wheels found on the Northern Plains, and was likely a center of ceremonies.
Wanuskewin is a Nēhiyawēwin (Cree) word that can be translated as “sanctuary,” and for the indigenous people who still live near the site, its spiritual and cultural power remains. “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,” Jake Sanderson, the park’s elder, told Canadian Geographic. Indigenous and non-indigenous visitors alike are welcome to walk the land, sample its bounty at the cafe, and feel what continues to make Wanuskewin a vital sanctuary.
Know Before You Go
The cafe's menu is regularly updated, so you can check on the website before you visit (or open yourself to surprises). Wanuskewin's visitors' center features regular exhibits, and you can sign up for group tours before visiting.