Above the Media

Canada 2013: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Part Five: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a Unesco World Heritage Site near Fort Macleod, Alberta. It has been of great interest to archeologists since it it was first excavated in the 1930s. Two days after Canada Day we took a drive there to see what it’s all about. Here we were educated on Blackfoot history and entertained by traditional dancers in colourful costume inspired by their ancestral roots.

Indigenous people of the area such as the Blackfoot tribe, used this spot for over 5500 years to perform a unique hunting practice: driving herds of Bison down an 11 metre cliff to their death. Legend has it that a curious boy too young to join the hunt hid under an overhanging rock to witness the killing. Apparently his plan didn’t work out so well and the rest of the story is recorded quite graphically in the name of the place.

On the way home we stopped off at Fort Macleod which has en equally interesting history. The fort was built by the North-West Mounted Police in 1874, a year after they formed. Their goal was to put an end to increasingly violent clashes between illicit whiskey traders and native people. They achieved great success by establishing good relations with the local tribes and bringing order to the region. Thirty years later they were awarded the “Royal” prefix and in 1920 after merging with the Dominion Police they became known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.