Earlier this week, the Honorable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and the Honourable Whitney Issik, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks, announced the official endorsement of the nomination of the North Saskatchewan River as a Canadian Heritage River.
According to a press release, the nominated section includes 718 km of the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, from the Banff National Park boundary to the Alberta/Saskatchewan provincial border.
The 49 km portion of North Saskatchewan River within Banff National Park was previously recognized as a Canadian Heritage River in 1989.
The North Saskatchewan River is a traditional gathering spot, a travel route, and home to Indigenous peoples, including the Cree, Blackfoot, Ktunaxa, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Assiniboine.
It also played an essential role as a principal transportation and communication route from eastern Canada to the Rocky Mountains from the middle of the 17th century through the mid-20th century.
This section of the North Saskatchewan River was nominated by Smoky Lake County due to its exceptional cultural value and its role as a primary exploration, transportation, and settlement corridor in Western Canada for thousands of years by Indigenous peoples, as well as during the last four centuries of European and Indigenous exploration, fur trade, and settlement; and also for its outstanding recreational value, affording many diverse opportunities for river travel and adventure.
The North Saskatchewan River Valley is one of several locations within the Edmonton region being studied as possible locations for the national urban park. Together, the river valley and park could provide access to nature for communities, protect biodiversity, improve urban green spaces for public conservation and enjoyment, and promote reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples.
“The official nomination of the North Saskatchewan River as a Canadian Heritage River is an important step in the process of creating a national urban park in Treaty 6 Territory. Indigenous peoples in Treaty 6 Territory have a deep and spiritual connection to the North Saskatchewan River and its river valley, and I am grateful for this development. The river was a traditional travel route, and its valley was home to and a gathering place for many diverse Indigenous peoples. This is a positive step in our shared reconciliation journey and will provide opportunities for healing and cultural celebration for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” said Grand Chief George Arcand Jr., Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations