National Treasure #61: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump reflects 6,000 years of Plains Indian history – primarily Blackfoot, as I understand it.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the oldest, most extensive, and best preserved sites that illustrate communal hunting techniques and the way of life of Plains people who, for more than five millennia, subsisted on the vast herds of bison that existed in North America. – UNESCO site

Located about 1 1/2 or 2 hours south of Calgary, it’s the sort of place you take foreign visitors but might otherwise never get to on your own. So in case you don’t get there, here’s a video that gives you a sense of the place. After all, in our individualistic society, it’s hard to understand a communal hunting practice. And in our frenetic society, it’s hard to even imagine a cultural practice that lasted for almost 6,000 years.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #61: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

  1. JimTaylor says:

    I have mixed feelings about “Head Bashed In”. On the one hand, we’re told to respect the aboriginal policy of killing only what you need — respect for the Great Mystery embodied in nature. On the other hand, the Plains Indians herded thousands of buffalo over this cliff, killing far more than they could ever use (in the days before refrigeration). I remember that Farley Mowat got into deep hot water over his claim (in People of the Deer, I think) that the northern natives had slaughtered thousands of caribou at a river crossing, so many that the bed of the river was metres deep in white bones. There seem to be two conflicting stories going on here.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Fair enough. First Nations didn’t have the technology to wipe out herds quickly, but inexorable pressure can be pretty devastating, too.

  2. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – Following on with Jim’s comment, the truth may also depend on whether or not you are trying to negotiate a land claim or are trying to get larger grants from the Federal Government.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – A complex business – truth, context, interpretation – and the reality, I think, that few things in life are 100/0. Most things are a mix of motives.

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