Canada's Tentative List

Áísínai’pi (Writing-On-Stone), Alberta

Proposed Justification of "Outstanding Universal Value"

Criterion (i): Áísínai’pi is a masterpiece of artistic expression of the Niitsítapi people;

Criterion (iii): It is an exceptional testimony, through petroglyphs, pictographs, landscape features, archaeological sites, and oral traditions to continuing and changing life of the Niitsítapi on the Great Plains;

Criterion (iv): It is an outstanding example of a landscape associated with Aboriginal spirituality.

These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process. The criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.


Lying within the traditional territory of the Niitsítapi (Blackfoot: Kainai, Piikáni and Siksika), Áísínai’pi (“it is pictured/written”) is a sacred place where geological formations house spirit beings, and more than 50 rock art sites record the “writings” of the spirits. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (Áísínai’pi) in the Milk River Valley is a spectacular pocket in the mixed grass prairie landscape sweeping through south-central Alberta to the powerful Kátoyissiksi (Sweetgrass Hills, Montana, USA). Defined by the valley’s eroded ancient sandstone cliffs, it is characterized by dramatic views, eerie light and sounds, hoodoo formations, adjacent coulees and prairie habitats rich in mammal, bird and plant species. For at least 4 000 years, Aboriginal people have stopped here in the course of their seasonal round. The petroglyph and pictograph sites on the valley walls include several thousand motifs in hundreds of scenes, predominantly anthropomorphs, zoomorphs and material object motifs. Ceremonial and ritual figures, exploits of hunters and warriors, and diverse animals are depicted among the images. New motifs created after European contact in the early 18th century include guns, horses and dynamic human figures, the instruments of Aboriginal-White contact and cultural change. Burial places, vision quest locations and a medicine wheel on the rim of the valley also mark the spirituality of the landscape. Traditional knowledge describes the origins and history. A reconstructed Royal Canadian Mounted Police post sits on the site of the original post.