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Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Traditional Blackfoot Supermarket!

Hollywood might have given you the idea that Plains tribes snagged lunch by chasing a buffalo with a bow-and-arrow on horseback, but in reality they often used less romantic but more efficient techniques.

The Buffalo Jump was often key: these were cliffs over which hunters would stampede a herd of buffalo to their deaths where they could be quickly butchered. Then the rest of the tribe would arrive to turn their meat into pemmican (a cake of pounded meat, berries and lard); their bones into tools and their hides into clothes and tipis.

Jumps like the one here at Head-Smashed-In are scattered across the North American plains, but this is the best preserved. It’s name comes, not from the fate of the beasts, but that of a 19th-century Blackfoot who met his sticky end after getting into too good a position to watch the fray from below.

The interpretive centre is slick and includes a video reconstruction of a jump as well as exhibiting a number of artifacts discovered here: particularly knives, arrowheads and sharp stones used to skin bison. Outside a path leads to the clifftop that was once the centre of the action, while the centre cafe serves buffalo meat in burgers and stews.

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Highway #785, Fort Macleod, Alberta

Daily 10am–5pm

Adult $15; check full & latest rates.

Crowsnest Pass & Around

History & Culture

Kids & Families

Canada's Rockies In-2-Weeks

Five Rocky Mountain parks in one glorious 14-day loop

Text © Christian Williams

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