Buffalo Jumps


The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years by our people to kill buffalo, by driving them off the 10 metre high cliff. The Blackfoot drove the buffalo from a grazing area in the Porcupine Hills about 3 kilometres west of the site to the "drive lanes," lined by hundreds of cairns, then at full gallop over a cliff.

The cliff itself is about 300 metres long, and at its highest point drops 10 metres into the valley below. The site was in use at least 6,000 years ago, and the bone deposits are 10 metres deep.

After falling off the cliff, the buffalo carcasses were processed at our nearby camp.

This site is the most well-known buffalo jump- the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump in Southern Alberta.

There are many others in traditional territory, including several at Siksika.

South of High River is the Old Women’s Buffalo Jump.

In 1952, a flash flood in the coulee below the jump exposed many layers of artifacts and bones. A dig at the site in 1958 revealed that the buffalo jump was in use for more than 1,500 years. The flat prairie, leading to a sudden cliff, the nearby creek and sheltered coulee provided perfect conditions for the buffalo kill site.

Although many buffalo jumps have eroded over time, and many bones and artifacts have been removed, they are unique monuments of the historical importance of the buffalo.

What is a Buffalo Jump?

A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which North American Indians historically used to kill plains bison/buffalo by herding the buffalo and driving them over the cliff. Buffalo jumps came into prevalent use by Plains hunters around the first century A.D.

Buffalo jump sites are often identified by rock cairns, which signified markers designating "drive lanes", by which bison would be funneled over the cliff. Often these drive lanes would stretch for miles on end.

This type of hunting was most certainly a communal event, which probably lasted until around 500-600 A.D. when the bow and arrow made its way to the plains. Buffalo jump sites yield significant archaeological evidence because processing sites and camps are always nearby.




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