The entire section of the river flowing in Alberta is now designated under the Canadian Heritage River System

GATINEAU, QC – Heritage places reflect the rich and varied stories of Canada and provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about our diverse history.

On March 22, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and the Honourable Rebecca Schulz, Alberta Minister of Environment and Protected Areas, announced the official designation of the remaining 718-kilometre section of the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, as a Canadian Heritage River.

With this designation, the entire section of the river in Alberta, including the previously designated 49-kilometre section that runs through Banff National Park, is recognized under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

The North Saskatchewan River is a traditional gathering place, travel route, and home to Indigenous peoples including the nêhiyawak (Cree), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Ktunaxa, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Assiniboine. The North Saskatchewan River is known to some Indigenous communities by different names. To some, the river is known as kisiskâciwani-sîpiy, meaning “swift-flowing river” in nêhiyawêwin (Cree), to others, Omaka-ty, meaning “the big river” in Niitsitapi (Blackfoot). This designation provides an opportunity to foster support for wider use of Indigenous languages and cultural connections to this important waterway.

This section of the North Saskatchewan River was nominated in 2022 by the proponent, Smoky Lake County, for its outstanding cultural and recreational values. kisisâciwani-sîpy connects the Rocky Mountains to the prairies, before meeting with its sister, the South Saskatchewan River, and eventually flows into Hudson Bay. For centuries, the river was a transportation and trade route, first for Indigenous peoples, then settlers and explorers coming from the east to the Rocky Mountains. kisiskâciwanisîpiy played a pivotal role in the fur trade, early scientific expeditions, human settlement patterns and agriculture. The river was not immune to episodes of conflict and played a role in the outcome of the North-West Resistance of 1885 and the tragic events at Frog Lake National Historic Site.

Omaka-ty has influenced human culture, recreation, and arts. It has inspired music and poetry, attracted paddlers and anglers, and hosted festivals. Today, the river continues to provide an important source of drinking water, habitat for plant and animal species, and support for the tourism and recreation industries.


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