"Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump UNESCO Site" Fort Macleod by Bwana_Brown

Fort Macleod Travel Guide: 11 reviews and 29 photos

On our drive back to Calgary from Glacier National Park in Montana, before flying out for home the next day, my wife and I stopped at the uniquely named and interesting Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump site a few miles west of Fort MacLeod (near Lethbridge) in southern Alberta. Starting about 6000 years ago, an area of low cliffs here was used by native Americans for thousands of years as a means of harvesting large numbers of Buffalo by tricking the herds into periodic stampedes over the cliff. There are a few similar sites located elsewhere in the Prairies of North America, but HSIBJ is the most intact because of its remoteness from 'civilization'. Because of the unique nature of this hunting technique and the wealth of archeological material here, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

The strange name for this jump arises from a legend that recounts how a young brave wanted to closely observe the effects of one of these hunts by standing on a narrow ledge beneath the cliff that the herd would plunge off. He had a great view of the action as the animals fell past him to their deaths, but this hunt was so successful that the bodies of the animals piled up so high that he was eventually pinned against the cliff face by them. When the tribe finally completed their butchering of the carcasses, they found the body of the brave with his skull crushed by the weight of the dead animals.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:A unique site with very well presented artifacts and history of the early culture of native American life on the Prairies
  • Last visit to Fort Macleod: Jul 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (5)

Comments (11)

  • traveldave's Profile Photo
    Feb 17, 2008 at 6:25 AM

    I've read about how the Indians used to drive herds of buffalo off cliffs. It would be fascinating to actually visit such a place, especially one with a good museum.

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2008 at 3:05 PM

    Interesting page Glenn ; these Indians were clever hunters, and you write about in interesting way; in the Pyrenees people from Neolithic age led the herds in canyons and closed the valleys with stonewalls. Cattle keeping began.. . . . I enjoyed reading.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2007 at 1:31 PM

    I saw a documentary on the buffalo's on the prairies = like your page most interesting

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Nov 1, 2006 at 12:43 PM

    Interesting information on a very intriguing site and story about the buffalo hunts.

  • Luchonda's Profile Photo
    Aug 11, 2006 at 7:29 AM

    Nice pictures - good info Glenn Greetz

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2006 at 11:10 PM

    Gotta love a name like that! Remember, a stuffed buffalo is a safe buffalo.

  • sue_stone's Profile Photo
    Jul 29, 2006 at 5:12 AM

    Interesting page on a place with a very intriguing name!

  • Dabs's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 8:08 PM

    That's a place with a name that's a real mouthful! Interesting story about the buffalo hunts.

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 6:05 AM

    What an intriguing site and what a clever system for hunting without firearms and horses! Amazing to think of the huge herds of bison, too.

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Jul 23, 2006 at 4:16 AM

    Not sure if the rife/horseback duo was any more effective than the aboriginal's use of natural land structures, but certainly not as fascinating.


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