Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump
Before the horse and the gun, native peoples hunted bison by stampeding the animals over rock ledges. One particular precipice just west of today's Fort Macleod was a prime slaughtering ground for plains dwellers. A bed of bones 10 metres attests to 5,700 years of continuous use.
It was at the end of such traditional bison hunting that the site earned its contemporary name. About 1850, a young brave too close to the hunt was crushed by the mass of falling animals.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump is the focal point of native history in Alberta SouthWest, and the best place to engage with members of today's Blood and Piikani Blackfoot communities.
The cleverly sited interpretive centre and adjacent trails provide visitors insight into how pre-industrial peoples developed a sustainable society and economy based on the limited harvesting of natural assets.
Contemporary Drum and Dance
If you can, time your visit for one of the summer days when local Blackfoot drummers and dancers perform on the outdoor plaza. The season starts with National Aboriginal Day, June 21, followed by early afternoon performances each Wednesday in July and August.
Though based on long-established social rites, contemporary native dancing is a living art practiced competitively at pow wows throughout North America. Innovation in footwork and dress is esteemed as much as allegiance to tradition. Dances and fashion design are freely exchanged among tribes to invigorate this ancient artform with vibrant creativity.