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Parks, First Nations collaboration wins gold

An innovative program connecting visitors to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park with an authentic Blackfoot cultural experience has won gold at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada Public Sector Leadership Awards.

First Nations Interpretation Internship Program

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, also known as Áísínai'pi in Blackfoot, is an important place for First Nations people, who have visited the spiritually significant landscape for thousands of years.

In the summer of 2013, two Blackfoot interns were hired at the park to share their culture and stories with visitors, and interacted with more than 4,000 visitors over the summer.

“This initiative is a fantastic example of an investment in communities that has led to opportunities for tourism growth, as well as the development of First Nations leaders. It’s an Alberta success story, demonstrating the value of collaboration, partnerships and innovation.”

- Dr. Richard Starke, Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation

The First Nations Interpretations Internship program was developed by staff in the Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with Aboriginal Relations and Canadian Badlands Ltd. to provide leadership development opportunities for First Nations staff, as well as bring visitors closer to Alberta’s Aboriginal history and heritage.

Considered to be a sacred place within Blackfoot traditional territory, Áísínai'pi is still used by First Nations leaders to observe their rich cultural history, the stories depicted in their rock art, and perform ceremonies to communicate with the spirit world.

“The experience and learning that this program has provided to the community, as well as visitors to Writing-on-Stone, is very valuable. It’s important that our community and people are represented in a factual way, and this program can teach visitors that may have a certain view of native people that we are something more than a stereotype.”

- Martin Heavy Head, Mookakin Cultural and Heritage Society

The First Nations Interpretation Internship program won gold in the Federal/Provincial/Territorial category, the first gold for an Alberta government project in this category.

The IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards program recognizes organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership by taking bold steps to improve Canada, through advancements in public policy and management.

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