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.
It took a while, but summer has finally arrived! With any city, these three precious months of summer bring their fair share of activities, and Regina is no different. There is a lot to do in Regina so let me know in the comments if I missed anything!
This should be obvious for anybody living in Regina, but for tourists Wascana Park offers a plethora of activities. From fireworks on Canada Day to festivals to just enjoying a quiet stroll, there are countless things to do in the park. Being three times larger than Central Park in New York, the park is full of pathways, bridges, tunnels and islands for you to explore. Self-guiding walking tours are also available, which showcase the monuments, statues, architecture, history and natural flora and fauna that is in the region. Sections of the park are protected for wildlife so you may see foxes, rabbits, raccoons, weasels, beavers, turtles and, if you're lucky, goats. There's also a swimming pool, bird sanctuary, a habitat conservation area and marina. Speaking of the Marina…
Wascana Park is beautiful from the land, but it is even more gorgeous from the water. Imagine floating in the heart of the city, surrounded by nothing but the silence of water. Motor boats aren't commonly found on the lake, so renting a canoe with a loved one can be a personal and private experience. If you're more of a physical person you can also rent a kayak or try stand-up paddle boarding, which recently opened up thanks to Queen City Sup. The marina is also home to the Willow on Wascana, a beautiful outdoor lakeside restaurant. If you're into brunches or wine tasting, or just enjoying eating outdoors, this is a place you must visit!
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.