Ingrid Cazakoff, CEO

This October 14, Heritage Saskatchewan celebrated 10 years of incorporation.  I can’t believe that 10 years has slipped by so quickly!

Although we are quite a young organisation, the work to get the organisation up and running has often been referenced as ‘30 years in the making’.  I suspect that the reasons for the extended birthing were multiple and complex but many years ago, a group of interested stakeholders had a vision for a community to collectively serve the interests of the heritage community and to speak on its behalf. In 2001, SaskCulture created a Heritage Community of Interest Committee (HCOI) that was comprised of a group of dedicated individuals whose primary interest was heritage. SaskCulture supported the HCOI Committee by providing staff support and financial assistance.  From its inception the HCOI Committee met several times a year to discuss common concerns and hosted several forums, thus reaching a broader audience.  In 2008, SaskCulture Inc. hired a consultant to consult with key stakeholders to determine the need for an organisation that would have heritage as its focus.  This consultation process determined that such an organisation was definitely needed, and in the summer of 2009, an interim board was put in place and the process of incorporation began.  In February 2010, Heritage Saskatchewan Alliance Inc. held its founding Annual General Meeting and its first Board was elected.  So that’s the history in a nutshell!  

What happened next can best be summed up as a time of exploration and discovery.  This included the establishment of a policy governance board from scratch – necessary in order to ensure that we were building a firm foundation.  So often, this critical part is overlooked and I am thankful that the Board has dedicated considerable time to ensuring that governance has been solid over the course of the last 10 years. 

The need to examine what we meant by ‘a voice for heritage’ led us to consider our place within the heritage community, and where we best could fill the space in between.  Given that the community is diverse and all contributing in their own ways, we purposely engaged in research that would benefit the larger community and raise awareness for the value of heritage to everyday life.  Given that the definition for heritage, created as a part of the pre-organisation days had already expanded to include tangible and intangible heritage, this next part of the journey created opportunities to build upon that foundation.

A part of this included the production of a report entitled Living Heritage & Quality of Life: Reframing Heritage Activity in Saskatchewan.  Coinciding with this report’s publication in 2012 was Heritage Canada’s (now the National Trust for Canada) Conference entitled: Toward a New Vision for the Heritage Movement: What’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change.  This conference was one of our ‘aha’ moments and quite frankly, a game changer. The speakers validated what we had been discovering though our own research.  For example, author and philosopher Mark Kingwell emphasized the need for citizens to reclaim and reverse the trends from one of exchange to one of citizen engagement. He indicated that ‘we use memories to create narratives and we still require narratives to have a sense of identity…. [We] can only come to value the things wisdom teaches once you learn to value them.’  So we asked ourselves: do we continue on the same path or chart a new course? 

We chose to chart a new course – one that creates the space to connect our social, cultural, environmental, and economic values; adapts to change; and is a living and evolving component of everyday life.  Our journey so far has resulted in new research information, an active Heritage Fairs program, working in community development, leadership opportunities, and – just this last week – the release of the Saskatchewan Index of Wellbeing through our partnership with the Community Initiatives Fund.  

So when we talk about Living Heritage, we recognize that our values, beliefs, our ways of living, our places of significance, our languages, our traditions, our rituals, and our values make us who we are.   By embracing a broader concept of values, we ensure that we do not limit the impact that our heritage has in contributing to our sense of identity belonging and place. Essentially, to our quality of life.  

So as we recognize our 10th anniversary, I do so knowing that there is still so much that needs to be done.   As Katherine Gilks, our Projects Coordinator, stated in a recent blogpost: ‘We are challenged to think critically about our past, present, and future’.  We will endeavour to continuously learn and improve.  This includes a commitment to reconciliation, advocating for holistic approaches to community development, inspiring future generations, and working towards a future where we no longer take our collective heritage for granted.

Thank you to all of the individuals, organisations, and communities that have supported us and who also have dedicated their time and voice to heritage in Saskatchewan. 

And we would not be here today without the strong support from SaskCulture.  Thank you for your vision and for recognizing the value of heritage in our communities!