June is National Aboriginal History Month, an opportune time to highlight one of Alberta’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a place that is culturally significant to the Plains People.
For many of us, summer in Alberta is can be one adventure after another.
One of those adventures starts where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains, where one of the world’s largest, oldest and well-preserved buffalo jumps stands still in time.
Nestled within a cliff side, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (HSIBJ) gives visitors a first-hand look at the cultural significance of this cliff to the Plains People. For nearly 6,000 years, Plains People travelled far and wide to use this specific jump for herding and hunting buffalo as a means of their survival.
Inside the centre, Head-Smashed-In archaeologists weave a story of the hunt and culture of the Plains Peoples, and how this chapter in the old story of a dynamic and resourceful culture ended with the demise of the buffalo hunting culture. Re-enactments of hunt are shown in the exhibit theatre.
Outside, there are opportunities to take in the view of the impressive landscape and stand on grounds that remain sacred to Blackfoot culture. Visitors can hike paved trails, and take interpreted walks beneath the cliff through what was the camp and processing area for the Plains People. Starting in May and running through to October, a guided hike through the buffalo drive lanes takes you on a four hour journey through the physical and cultural landscape of Blackfoot hunters on the first Saturday of each month.
On June 21 celebrate First Nations’ contributions to Canadian society through the sound and spectacle of drumming and dancing and listen to Blackfoot elders tell stories about the plains buffalo culture. Other events throughout the summer include the geocaching, a flying buffalo kite festival, drumming and dancing on the plaza, a run among the buffalo and buffalo harvest days.
In 1981, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated HSIBJ as a World Heritage Site placing it among other world heritage monuments such as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.
The site includes indoor and outdoor exhibits and activities suitable for toddlers, teens and adults.
For more information on HSIBJ see the Alberta Culture and Tourism Museums and Historic Sites page.
You can also get updates by following HSIBJ on social media: