Let's go adventuring
Saturday December 13th 2014

Going VIA Canada: Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

Yes it sounds a little a bit violent and in practice it probably was but don’t worry, we did not partake. Chris did threaten to push me off the jump at one stage.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump was actually the second tourist stop while we were staying in Claresholm. Buffalo jumps were a common hunting technique used by the native Indians in the prairies until horses and white people came along (the latter nearly managed to eliminate buffalo off the face of the planet.) The practice involved herding a bunch of buffalo up a cliff in such a rush that they stampeded off the other side and were killed. The animals were quickly butchered and nearly every single part of them was used to either house, feed or make tools. It was a sustainable hunting practice that lasted thousands of years.

If you’re interested I found the video below that shows how the technique worked. It’s not exactly the same as the one I saw at Head Smashed In but it will give you an idea of how it worked.

I heard a couple of different stories about the name “Head Smashed In” but the official one at the site goes like this: 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 with his head smashed in. Literal, yes, but it gets the point across.

It didn’t look like such a big drop from up on top. It was when I looked over that I realised it was actually quite a way down. That and the fact of 5700 years of debris left behind from buffalo jumping along with the cliff faces natural erosion goes some way to making the jump appear smaller than it would have been.

Have a read through the archaeological facts about Head Smashed in Buffalo jump if you want to find out more.

This time there were signs warning of wild cats and advised us to travel in groups. No cats were to be seen, wild or otherwise but we did see our first gophers along with some other type of ground squirrel chasing it’s tale in the middle of the road.

Trust me, there are two gophers sitting on that rock. The buffalo jump is behind them.

Catch up again soon. Until then you can keep looking at the photos.