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Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

· 5 min. read

Written by: Joanne Elves.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump has element of surprise for humans and buffalo.

Just like the buffalo from thousands of years ago, you'll be hard-pressed to see Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site until you are on the doorstep. For you, its because the award-winning building is tucked under the cliff. For the buffalo, it was a sad fate, but that same cliff was what the First Nations people depended on for survival. A visit to Head Smashed In is another must-do on your #BucketListAB adventures.

In Blackfoot the centre is called "Estpah-skikikini-kots" but to make it easy we'll just say Head Smashed In. The history behind the name dates back thousands of years to when a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff. He hid below the cliff not thinking about what could be the outcome of his decision. He was found crushed under the pile of buffalo.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is one of many historical sites in southern Alberta that you can visit on the same excursion. Check the Alberta History website to learn about Leitch Collieries, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and the Remington Carriage Museum. Or visit the full version of this story on the SnowSeekers website.

Buffalo Closeup

Telling of the legends, folklore and history

Inside the centre, the story of life on the prairie unfolds, following the nomadic life of the First Nations. The presentations start on the top floor displaying how First Nations people survived though thousands of years with only their skills, strength and spiritual beliefs. As you descend through the levels, you move with time until you are standing under the trio of buffalo that dominate the cliff inside the building. Below them is a replica of the archaeological digs that uncovered the past hidden in the soil beneath our feet.

"I like to call the buffalo a "Four-legged Walmart," says Quinton CrowShoe, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Crowshoe is a direct descendant of those people that followed the herds. "Our ancestors used almost every part of the buffalo to survive."

Quinton CrowShoe at Buffalo JumpDigsite at Buffalo Jump

Be one with the buffalo

The Piskun program is very popular experience Mondays and Fridays throughout July and August. The three-hour immersive experience not only tells guests about buffalo hunting, it has them experience it for themselves. Right from the traditional Blackfoot blessing where sweet grass is burned to learning to use an ancient spear thrower to tasting dried buffalo meat; the guests are involved. They participate in a mini buffalo jumping, re-enacting roles from buffalo runners to driving buffalo (people get to be buffalo too) to spearing the animal (no, you don't really spear anyone!). Not only is it educational, it's a fun experience for the entire family.

Other special events are held throughout the summer including hikes to the drive lanes where you can see the Rocky Mountains to the west and well, forever to the east. Geocaching, drumming and dancing events, and harvest celebrations are also held. Check the full line of events on the official site here.

Head Smashed In is open year-round, and here's a hint - the quiet winter is the perfect time to slow down and absorb it all. Interpreters from the Blackfoot Nation have wonderful stories that have been passed on through generations.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site is 160 km south of Calgary on highway 2. Watch for the giant metal buffalo sign at Highway 785. Turn west and in 16 km you will still be looking for the building, but it's there hidden in the cliffs.

Snowseekers.ca is an excellent source of other destinations, festivals and events in Western Canada.

#explorealberta with SnowSeekers' #BucketlistAB Expedition. Uncover what's in store now by visiting http://www.snowseekers.ca/expedition/bucketlistAB.

All images belong to Joanne Elves and Pam Drover.

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Categories: Alberta, Canada

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