Date of Inscription: 2019

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi, was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee under the following criteria:

Criterion (iii)

The sacred landscape and the rock art of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi provide exceptional testimony to the living cultural traditions of the Blackfoot people. According to Blackfoot beliefs, spiritual powers inhabit the earth, and the characteristics of the landscape and the rock art in the property reflect tangible, profound and permanent links with this tradition. The viewsheds of the sacred valley, with high grassland prairies, also contribute to its sacred character and influence traditional cultural practices.

Description

Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai'pi is a sacred site in a mixed grassland prairie region on the northern edge of the Great Plains. Milk River Valley and several “coulees” dominate the topography of this cultural landscape, whose geological features include a concentration of hoodoos, with spectacular forms sculpted by erosion. The Blackfoot people Nation (Siksikáítsitapi) has left engravings and paintings on the sandstone walls of the Milk River Valley, which bear witness to spirit messages. The landscape is considered to be sacred by the Blackfoot people, and centuries-old traditions are perpetuated today in various ceremonies and in the respect in which the place is held.

The property consists of three components – the main component Áísínai’pi, and some 10 km away, Haffner Coulee and Poverty Rock - and contains thousands of rock art images. Most of the dated archaeological remains cover a period from 1800 BCE up to the beginning of the post-contact period. The rock art has been made in the valley for thousands of years, and most of the images date from the pre-contact period, around 3000 BP.

A park interpreter points to an example of rock art in a cliff face

© Alberta Parks/John Novotny

A Blackfoot park interpreter shares stories about the rock art.
Example of rock art in cliff face depicts warriors

© Alberta Parks

Pre-contact narrative scene depicting shield-bearing and pedestrian warriors
A 600 metre long cliff face that rises from a prairie landscape contains many examples of rock art.

© Alberta Parks

The main rock art site at Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai’pi stretches for nearly 600 m along cliffs above a river terrace
A Blackfoot community member and park interpreter speak together

© Alberta Parks

A Blackfoot community member (r) and park interpreter speak together.

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