Where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin to rise from the Great Plains is where you’ll find Canada’s oldest and largest buffalo jump, an archaeological site that has preserved the fascinating history of the Plains People for millenia. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump remembers a method of hunting practiced by the native people of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years. Because they knew the regional topography and the bison’s behavior so well, the People were able to hunt bison by stampeding them over a cliff.
Today the site is a multi-exhibit museum introducing the visitor to the people who lived in harmony with the delicate ecology of the prehistoric plains, showcasing their lifestyles, and sharing native accounts of how they learned to hunt the buffalo. Topographical models explain how the jump site was used, and an exhibit focuses on the spiritual and ceremonial significance of the buffalo hunt. Local Blackfoot actors recreate a buffalo drive and the activities surrounding a jump, and a theater shows a short film about native ceremonies. Lastly, the introduction of European trade goods and the resulting destruction of the native population is explored.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, placing it among other world monuments like the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. It is located where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains meet the prairie, a 15-minute drive northwest of Fort Macleod, Alberta. Severe weather may lead to temporary closures.