November 18, 2021

Ancient Archaeological Find in Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Uncovered by Roaming Bison
After conservation efforts reintroduced Saskatchewan bison to their traditional lands in 2019,
they helped archaeologists uncover 1,000-year-old petroglyphs and the tool used to carve them
TREATY SIX TERRITORY AND HOMELAND OF THE MÉTIS NATION (Saskatoon, SK) –
November 19, 2021: A never-before-seen archaeological find in Wanuskewin Heritage Park in
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan unlocks fascinating information about the Northern Plains Indigenous
Peoples who gathered on the land for over 6,400 years.

The find was announced today by Dr Ernie Walker, chief archaeologist and park co-founder.
Bison activity has also been credited for uncovering four petroglyphs and the tool used to carve
them.

“The discovery of these petroglyphs is a testament to just how sacred and important this land
is,” says Darlene Brander, CEO Wanuskewin Heritage Park. “The individual who made these
petroglyphs was actually carving their legacy into the rock many years ago.”
In 2019, bison were reintroduced to their traditional lands, now Wanuskewin Heritage Park, after
more than 150 years as part of a $40-million revitalization that included conservation efforts to
repopulate bison numbers across North America. In 2020, bison activity – including “wallowing,”
where bison roll in the grass and create dust pits – uncovered a patch of a submerged boulder.
Dr. Walker realized the find was a petroglyph, an image carved or abraded in rock. While Dr.
Walker and his team were excavating around the petroglyph, they found the stone knife that
was used to carve the drawings, in precise trajectory to an ancient bison jump.

Following the initial find highlighted by the bison, Dr. Walker and his team uncovered three more
petroglyphs in varying shapes, sizes and designs, including one bearing the scratched marks of
a Ribstone, which is found in Hoofprint Tradition rock art, and associated with bison and bison
hunts. These petroglyphs are estimated to date back anywhere between 300 and 1,800 years,
though taken in context with historic events they are likely 1,000 years old. It is extremely rare to
find four carved boulders together, and even more rare to locate the carving tool used to make
them. A truly remarkable story, however, is the bison. Had they not been reintroduced to their
traditional land – after being hunted nearly to extinction in the 1870s – this important scientific
discovery would have remained hidden.

The first stone found, a Bison Ribstone, is currently on display within the Interpretive centre.
Wanuskewin is a National Historic Site and currently listed among Canada’s tentative UNESCO
Heritage List, with a pending UNESCO application. The heritage park is situated on the historic
lands of the Dakota First Nation, adjacent to the South Saskatchewan River. The Park has been
a gathering place for Indigenous Peoples for centuries, and in recent decades has revealed
several archaeological deposits, including bison jumps, which are cliff formations used by
Indigenous Peoples to hunt plains bison; ancient campsites; tipi rings; and the northernmost
medicine wheel in the world.

“We have been so fortunate over the years to have had these wondrous stories emerge that we
are able to share with the community,” says Brander. “Today it is our duty to share this story as
our call to reconciliation by shining a light on the distinct and beautiful cultures of the Northern
Plains People.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Walker and his fellow researchers, the site is distinguished as
Canada’s longest running archaeological dig, and has produced nearly 200,000 artefacts,
including teeth, bones, tools, pottery, shells, charcoal, and seeds. Many of these finds predate
even the ruins of Rome and the pyramids of Egypt. As a non-profit, Wanuskewin relies on public
and private donations to ensure its invaluable work in preserving and celebrating the Northern
Plains Indigenous culture continues.

The park is open year-round for visitors and offers seven kilometres of walking trails, a tipi
village, a restaurant serving food inspired by the land, and programming that educates guests
about the Indigenous Peoples who have called this area home for centuries. In Spring, 2022,
along with being able to visit the site where the boulders were discovered, visitors will be able to
see the baby bison, the first generation of a new herd of direct descendants from the original
two herds – Grasslands National Park (Canada) and Yellowstone National Park (U.S.), which
have not been seen in the area for over 150 years.