From time to time people and leaders pause to recognize publicly the achievements of their ancestors or the occurrence of important events, and to mark places of major significance. In 1965, on the occasion of Saskatchewan's 60th anniversary as a province, J.W. McCaig, chairman of Saskatchewan's Diamond Jubilee Committee, provided the rationale for preserving historic sites: they should remind everyone that “here history was made.” Since that declaration, hundreds of sites and structures have been preserved or developed as places of historic significance to the people of Saskatchewan. First Nations people left tangible remains in places of importance to them: carved or painted stones, and monuments such as medicine wheels, sacred circles, and human or animal effigies. St. Victor Petroglyphs Provincial Park in south-central Saskatchewan, which includes carvings dating between 500 and 1750 AD, is an excellent example of this kind of heritage site. By now, over 1,000 sites have been established in the province, belonging to the following categories:
First Heritage Conservation Site: The first documented heritage site preservation project in Saskatchewan occurred in 1911, when people in Saskatoon determined to preserve their vacant 24-year-old stone school-house from demolition: Victoria School, erected in 1887, represented the pioneer era of settlement in Saskatoon, and the introduction of public education in the community. The “old” stone school was carefully documented, dismantled, and re-erected on the grounds of the new University of Saskatchewan.
National Historic Sites: In 1923, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated five Saskatchewan sites of national importance and erected a stone cairn with an ornate bronze plaque at each location. By 2004, an additional seventy-six heritage sites had been recognized for their national significance, including the Keyhole Castle (Smith Residence) in Prince Albert, and the Addison Sod Farm House near Kindersley.
Provincial Historic Sites: The government of Saskatchewan passed legislation under the Archives Act of 1938 to mark historic sites. The first plaque under this program was erected in 1943 at the South Branch House fur trade post site, near Duck Lake. A more concerted effort to commemorate provincial historic sites was made in the early 1950s, when fifty-six more sites were designated in time for the 1955 Jubilee celebrations. Many of these, especially the historic trails, were accompanied by a replica of a Red River cart. By 2004, 164 provincial historic sites had been designated, and generally marked by a small stone cairn and a bronze or aluminum plaque in the shape of the province.
Local Historic Sites: Since 1966, the demand for recognizing sites of local significance has also resulted in the creation of a large number of local historic sites, erected jointly by the province and a local organization - or, since 1988, through the joint efforts of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and local groups. Approximately 475 aluminum plaques can be found throughout the province, including one in Eastend at the boyhood home of Pulitzer Prize author Wallace Stegner.
Designated Heritage Properties: Over 750 sites and structures have been designated as either Municipal or Provincial Heritage Property under the Heritage Property Act. Many of these have also been publicly recognized through placement of some form of plaque and/or inclusion in a walking or driving tour of heritage sites in the community or region. The Allen Sapp Art Gallery, located in the former North Battleford Public Library, is an example of a municipally designated site; while the Doukhobor Prayer Home, Verigin, has been recognized for its provincial significance (see doukhobor settlement).
Although initial designations were for fur trade or military posts, political leaders and historic trails, in more recent times greater efforts have been made to include also other aspects of heritage relating to women, Aboriginal people, and industrial and cultural sites. The Berthold Imhoff Art Studio, near St. Walburg, is an example of a site designated for its association with an important Saskatchewan artist. Heritage sites help inform visitors about the people, places and events that have shaped the province. Some sites include historic structures, others provide exceptional natural vistas; yet others speak of the evolution of society and sometimes of its conflicts - as at Batoche in 1885 or Estevan in 1931 (see estevan coal strike). (See Figure HS-1 opposite.)