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Day 10 – Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Day 10 – Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

By on May 27, 2017 in Alberta | 1 comment

This morning started well, Dad made cheesy eggs so we had lots of energy for a big day.

We left around 9:00AM. Today we were going to see Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

When we arrived Maria was excited that we got to ride a bus to the visitors center. First thing you need to do is ride the elevators (2 of them) to the top to walk out and see the actual cliff. On the way, they have a stuff buffalo Maria thought was ‘cute’.

Dad was in love with the smell the wild flowers made as we walked to the viewing point. When we got there we read about how it was made a National Park, and where the Native Americans would push the buffalo off the cliff. We learned that one of the nearby hills young native boys would go and sit  for days eating very little and have vision quests.

We  walked down the path back into the center and learned many interesting things like

  • At one point, there was over 40 MILLION buffalo roaming North America
  • Due to over hunting and just random killing, that dropped to just 1000 because of Europeans arriving
  • Native Americans learned that grass that would burn in fall would come back thicker in spring – so they would burn the grass at the top of the buffalo jump so it would grow back in the spring greener and that would bring the buffalo back.
  • For WW1, there was a need for material for gun powder, so many buffalo jump locations were bulldozed for the buffalo bones (or killed many of the living bufflo)
  • The Black Foot people would depend mostly on berries and buffalo
  • There is proof that Native Americans camped at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump over 9000 years ago
  • The Native Americans used this jump starting 6000 years ago (before that they just camped there)
  • For a period of a thousand years, the jump was not used (they aren’t sure why)
  • At first there was a 50M drop, but as rocks fell and the bones piled up the drop became less and is now down to 10M
  • Buffalo have poor sight
  • Buffalo have amazing smell
  • Native Americans would dry out the meat in the sun/over a fire, grind it into a powder, mix them with berries and the fat of the buffalo bones. This was there food they ate in winter, it is called Pemmican (INTERESTING FACT – it could last this way for up to 10yrs)

Why is it called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump?

Legend has it that a young boy wanted to see the buffalo’s fall off the cliff from below. He was standing too close that when the buffalo began to fall and between the falling rock and buffalo, got trapped under them. He was later found by this tribe with his head smashed.

How does the Buffalo Jump work?

When spring arrived the Native Americans would gather rocks and make a small pile and place tree branches with inside them. They would do this in two lines, starting very far apart and getting closer towards the cliff.  This would make a funnel of sorts directing the buffalo towards the cliff.

When it was time to hunt two men would dress up as wolfs and one as a baby buffalo. The rest of the tribe would position themselves with buffalo skin at each pile of rocks.

The two dressed as wolves would position themselves on the far side, away from the cliff. The buffalo who were all standing and eating would not get scared of the two wolfs, but would all move away from the danger. Then the one pretending to be a baby buffalo would position himself between the herd and the cliff. He would make out a distress call that would make the pack of buffalo move towards it so they would protect it. Between this action and the wolves, they slowly moved the heard farther down the funnel towards the cliff.

At the right moment, the man dressed as a buffalo would run towards the cliff as would the men dressed as wolves. This would cause the heard to stampede towards the cliff. At the same time, the rest of the tribe would stand up waving the buffalo skin. The buffalo would be forced into a small path that would lead to the drop.  The buffalo could not re-act fast enough and fell over the cliff.

Once the buffalo fell the Native Americans would immediately start their cleaning process. When they finished they would start making their food for winter. Starting with cleaning and drying out of the meat.


    1 Comment

  1. This looked like a fun day trip. The kids are getting big adventures on this trip and lots of exercise.

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