Writing on Stone

Shayne Thiessen

Writing on Stone Provincial Park is a UNESCO world heritage site. It received this designation because it contains contains over 50 petroglyph sites, making it the greatest concentration of rock art on the North American Great Plains.

The UNESCO application was put forth under name Áísínaiʼpi, which is the Blackfoot word for “it is pictured”.

Writing on Stone acts as both a nature preserve and protector of First Nations rock carvings and paintings. The area has been inhabited by First Nations people for over 9000 years, and is sacred to the Blackfoot tribes.

The native tribes that visited this site believed that the cliffs and hoodoos were the homes of powerful spirits.

In the 1730s, horses, and guns began to appear on the western prairies. The significance of this can be seen in some of the rock art, which depicts a war seen that includes men with firearms. This drawing was likely carved in the 1800s.

While not easy to make out, the scene below includes a bison, as well as the sun.

Here a shield can be seen. This drawing is probably older than the ones shown above, because the use of shields began to diminish once guns were introduced to the aboriginal people.

In the late 1880s a North West Mounted Police camp was setup at the park in order to prevent the smuggling of whisky across the Canadian/American Border. However the majority of illegal crossings here was not smugglers, but American Cattle, which would be rounded up and chased back to the American side of the border by the NWMP.

In 1957 the area was officially named a provincial park, and twenty years later it was also designated as an archeological preserve. In 2005 it was designated a National Historic site and in 2019 it was official added as a UNESCO world heritage site.

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