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Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a buffalo jump located where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin to rise from the prairie 18 km northwest of Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada on highway 785. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of a museum of Blackfoot culture.

History

The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years by the indigenous peoples of the plains to kill buffalo, by driving them off the 10 metre high cliff. The Blackfoot drove the buffalo from a grazing area in the Porcupine Hills about 3 kilometres west of the site to the "drive lanes," lined by hundreds of cairns, then at full gallop over a cliff, breaking their legs, rendering them immobile. The cliff itself is about 300 metres long, and at its highest point drops 10 metres into the valley below. The site was in use at least 6,000 years ago, and the bone deposits are 10 metres deep. After falling off the cliff, the buffalo carcasses were processed at a nearby camp.

In Blackfoot, the name for the site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. According to legend, a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff from below, but was buried underneath the falling buffalo. He was later found dead under the pile of carcasses "where he got his head smashed in" .

World Heritage Site

Head-Smashed-In was abandoned in the 19th century after European contact. The site was first recorded by Europeans in the 1880s, and first excavated by the American Museum of Natural History in 1938. It was designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 1968, a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, and a World Heritage Site in 1981, putting it in the ranks of such sites such as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and the Galápagos Islands.

The park was established as a World Heritage Site in 1981 for its testimony of prehistoric life and the customs of aboriginal people.

Interpretive centre and museum

The $10 million interpretive centre at Head-Smashed-In is built into the ancient sandstone cliff in naturalistic fashion. It contains five distinct levels depicting the ecology, mythology, lifestyle and technology of Blackfoot peoples within the context of available archaeological evidence, presented from the viewpoints of both aboriginal peoples and European archaeological science.

The centre also offers tipi camping and hands-on educational workshops in facets of Native American life, such as making moccasins, drums, etc. Each year Head-Smashed-In hosts a number of special events and native festivals known throughout the world for their color, energy and authenticity, including a special Christmas festival called Heritage Through My Hands, which brings together native artists and craftspeople who display a wide variety of jewelry, clothing, art and crafts.

Other references

The Canadian indie band Huevos Rancheros recorded a song titled "Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump" on their 2000 (somewhat appropriately named) album Muerte del Toro.

The Canadian punk rock band SNFU also recorded a song titled "Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump" on their 2004 album In The Meantime and In Between Time.

Dave Barry has mentioned Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump in several of his books. When he found out about the site, he called the phone number of the Interpretive Centre, and the telephone was answered, "Head Smashed In, may I help you?" He claims this was a highlight of his life.

See also

References

External links

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