The Wanuskewin rib stones mysterious discovery
- John Cuthand | January 01, 2022
Four carved stone artifacts have been found at Wanuskewin and are now on display along with a stone knife found in close proximity. They were found by accident exposed in a buffalo wallow made by a newly introduced herd. An Indigenous person may find this more than coincidence. Stone and buffalo are spiritually closely connected. In Indigenous belief, stone is animate, which is to say alive. Perhaps they wanted to be found and it was the buffalo who exposed them. There is no indication they were there before the buffalo wallow.
Rib stones are a most significant and rare find. The Wanuskewin rib stones are somewhat different from others. Instead of deeply incised lines representing buffalo ribs they feature shallow scratches. On one artifact lines converge at what is likely a spirit figure.
It is believed the first buffalo emerged from stone and when they were being hunted to near extinction great herds went into the earth with the prophecy they would reemerge in the distant future. There is an island on Manitou Lake south of Lloydminster where it is said a herd went into the earth. Anishinabe people camped nearby for years in the belief they would witness the herds return. They did not return in their time and so most of the camp eventually moved on to the Little Pine First Nation where their descendants live today.
The union of buffalo and stone is repeated in the origin story of the great stone Mistasini which was located near Outlook Saskatchewan. The story tells of a boy raised by the buffalo who could not become a buffalo nor return to his people for all he knew were the buffalo ways. Kind old man buffalo who raised him helps him transform into a large boulder in the shape of a sleeping buffalo. People come asking for him to speak for them to old man buffalo, chief of the buffalo nation, who in turn tells his nation to offer themselves to the people that the people may live. Mistasini was a very important intermediary between the people and the buffalo they needed to survive.
Wanuskewin was mercifully spared the desecration of the plow. It remains original prairie and keeps a human history older than the pyramids going back five thousand years and more. Along with buffalo jumps, a pound and occupation sites, there is a medicine wheel whose meaning is a true mystery. The rib stones complete the site.
There is a movement under way to have Wanuskewin declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a huge step from the pasture developers wanted to make into a suburb of Saskatoon some forty years ago. Sadly, there are many places where equally important archaeology has been destroyed.
Wanuskewin, the land, is a story teller from an ancient time. Stories are now becoming told through exploration and discovery. The four rib stones, the tool used to mark them and a stone knife are an important living gift from more then the land but the spirit of the land.