Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at River’s Edge Campground
LOCATION: Fort Macleod, Alberta – in SW part of Alberta
WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. Very windy. High 78

The reason we are at this campground and location is to visit the UNESCO site of Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, so off we went this morning. It is about 10 miles from town on a vast, beautiful prairie overlooking Oldman River. We squeezed in between tour bus groups to the interpretive center, one of the best we have been to. We first watched a film to learn about the custom. Dating back 6000+ years ago here, the First Nation people (Indians) used this method to kill buffalo (real name is American bison). They revered the buffalo and depended on them almost entirely for their food. The method was to first get a herd in a nearby “gathering basin”. They made lanes for the buffalo to run in. When conditions were perfect, they dressed in wolf skin and ran toward the buffalo to scare them. The buffalo started to stampede, and ran over the cliff. They either died immediately, or the Indians finished them off. Then, they worked furiously to get everything they could from the dead animals – skins for their tipis, meat, bones for tools and weapons.

We walked through the interpretive center learning about the Blackfoots. The center doesn’t talk much about the name of the place. I guess it is because it is kind of gruesome. I incorrectly thought it was named after one of the buffalo who got its face bashed in while jumping over the cliff. But, the name came from a young Indian boy. During the buffalo jump, he wanted to get close to see the buffalo jumping over the cliff. He placed himself under the cliff. That particular year, the jump was particularly good and a lot of buffalo jumped. Consequently, he got trapped under the cliff, head squashed by the dead buffalo piling up.

We took hikes around the site to see the cliff from which they jumped.

For those who know George, you know that he has never met a stranger. As our daughters used to say…”He talks with EVERYBODY!” Here, he started chatting with one of the First Nation guides at the center. He met his match – Little Leaf (the Indian’s name) talked his ear off, too!

We ate lunch at their cafe – buffalo meat (of course) chili, then we went into the town of Fort Macleod. It is reallly cute, and they are working hard to preserve its old, Western-style feel. We used the wifi at the library (always impressed by these small town libraries), then found the brewery.

It is brand new, but was renovated following strict guidelines (as we learned by chatting with the brewer/owner)

We don’t know why, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police rode by on the main street while we were sipping beers.

Back at the campground, we invited the owner over for a drink over the campfire, then watched the news on the TV – first TV we have had for awhile.

DINNER: Chicken quesadillas, using the tortillas left from our Mexican lunch party in Grande Prairie.

BOOK: I finished the Michele Obama auto-biography “Becoming”. I would rate it a 9 out of 10. I especially liked the first part about her growing up in Chicago.

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