Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump January 30, 2018 · 5 min. readDisclaimer: While the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump has element of surprise for humans and buffalo.
Just like the buffalo from thousands of years ago, you'll be hard-pressed to see Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site until you are on the doorstep. For you, its because the award-winning building is tucked under the cliff. For the buffalo, it was a sad fate, but that same cliff was what the First Nations people depended on for survival. A visit to Head Smashed In is another must-do on your #BucketListAB adventures.
In Blackfoot the centre is called "Estpah-skikikini-kots" but to make it easy we'll just say Head Smashed In. The history behind the name dates back thousands of years to when a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff. He hid below the cliff not thinking about what could be the outcome of his decision. He was found crushed under the pile of buffalo.
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is one of many historical sites in southern Alberta that you can visit on the same excursion. Check the Alberta History website to learn about Leitch Collieries, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and the Remington Carriage Museum. Or visit the full version of this story on the SnowSeekers website.
Telling of the legends, folklore and history
Inside the centre, the story of life on the prairie unfolds, following the nomadic life of the First Nations. The presentations start on the top floor displaying how First Nations people survived though thousands of years with only their skills, strength and spiritual beliefs. As you descend through the levels, you move with time until you are standing under the trio of buffalo that dominate the cliff inside the building. Below them is a replica of the archaeological digs that uncovered the past hidden in the soil beneath our feet.
"I like to call the buffalo a "Four-legged Walmart," says Quinton CrowShoe, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Crowshoe is a direct descendant of those people that followed the herds. "Our ancestors used almost every part of the buffalo to survive."
Be one with the buffalo
The Piskun program is very popular experience Mondays and Fridays throughout July and August. The three-hour immersive experience not only tells guests about buffalo hunting, it has them experience it for themselves. Right from the traditional Blackfoot blessing where sweet grass is burned to learning to use an ancient spear thrower to tasting dried buffalo meat; the guests are involved. They participate in a mini buffalo jumping, re-enacting roles from buffalo runners to driving buffalo (people get to be buffalo too) to spearing the animal (no, you don't really spear anyone!). Not only is it educational, it's a fun experience for the entire family.
Other special events are held throughout the summer including hikes to the drive lanes where you can see the Rocky Mountains to the west and well, forever to the east. Geocaching, drumming and dancing events, and harvest celebrations are also held. Check the full line of events on the official site here.
Head Smashed In is open year-round, and here's a hint - the quiet winter is the perfect time to slow down and absorb it all. Interpreters from the Blackfoot Nation have wonderful stories that have been passed on through generations.
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site is 160 km south of Calgary on highway 2. Watch for the giant metal buffalo sign at Highway 785. Turn west and in 16 km you will still be looking for the building, but it's there hidden in the cliffs.
Snowseekers.ca is an excellent source of other destinations, festivals and events in Western Canada.
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.