Sunday, May 1, 2011

Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

We always enjoy the time we get to spend at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Every trip here I learn something new.  This time I learned how this site got its name.

Legend has it that in the 1800's a young brave wanted to witness the plunge of buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the cliffs.  Standing under the shelter of a ledge, he watched the great beasts fall past him.

The hunt was unusually good that day.  As the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and cliff.  When his people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo carcasses.

Thus they named the site "Head Smashed-In."  You can hardly detect the building, designed right over the cliffs into the hillside, designed by architect Robert La blonde.  We met Mr. La blonde in the late 1990's... he flew out to Kelowna to try to sell us his services for the Cove Resort project.

In his portfolio Robert showed us his award winning design of Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.  That was the first we had heard of this place.  This six level facility follows up the hillside and is built right over the archaeological dig site, the cliffs... everything.  Absolutely incredible piece of work.

We could get right up close to this excavation and see the bones buried over hundreds of years ago.

Our tour inside the facility began in a theatre with a 15-minute movie of a buffalo hunt where the beasts were herded towards the cliffs where they stampeded to their death.

We then ascended to the sixth level where we could walk out onto the top of the cliffs...

Piles of rock held branches behind which the natives hid to scare the buffalo and make them stampede.

As I was walking back into the Interpretative Centre we could see the hillside where the buffalo were funnelled towards the cliffs.  For a moment I thought I could see a buffalo in the distance... but it was just  the neighbour's cattle.

It was quite amazing how this facility was designed into the hill and they captured the feeling in actual scale with real stuffed buffalos.

Numerous exhibits tell the story of the Blackfoot, how they utilized the buffalo, wasting very little.

Architectural details included custom made carpet with buffalos.  Pretty cool!

All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.-Phillip Johnson

As a bonus there was a temporary exhibit of 16 Legend Paintings done by students at Outreach Central in Fort McLeod.  Guidance was provided by a First Nations youth worker and an artist in residence.

Vibrant colours and strong images portray legends that are centuries old.  Space does not permit showing them all... but these kids did some awesome pieces of art.  Both Shirley and I really liked their show.

We arrived here at Head Smashed-In after 3 PM and basically had the place to our selves... until a couple of school groups from Calgary arrived and breezed thru the place.

From the Buffalo Jump site we could see these wind generators in the distance. What  a glorious afternoon.

Heading back to Calgary it was fascinating to watch the clouds... it had been snowing and raining all around us to the north.  We left Calgary in a snow shower... and now it was breaking up.

I was amazed to see two of these huge Case crawlers rolling down the highway at 50 mph pulling a cultivator with liquid fertilizer tank... looks like it can cover 36-40 feet in a single pass.  Things have changed a lot since my days on the farm.


  1. Very interesting place. Now I can understand why you enjoy visiting it so much.

  2. My kind of country...but you know that...

  3. I kind of figured that was what the name was about...the buffalos jumping, not so much as the guy's head getting crushed! What an amazing place!!!