“A long time ago, according to one legend, the people were driving buffalo over these sandstone cliffs. A young brave wanted to watch the buffalo tumbling past. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, as if behind a waterfall, he watched the great beasts fall. The hunt was unusually good that day and as the bodies piled up, he became trapped between the animals and the cliffs. When his people came do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus, they named this place “Head-Smashed-In”.
– The story behind the name of this place as described in the Interpretive Centre’s brochure.
Last Sunday, eight of us living in Calgary headed down to Fort MacLeod to visit a well known place where the natives used to stampede buffalo over cliffs in order to find the materials and food they needed to survive the winter. When we arrived in Fort MacLeod, it seemed pretty desolate with winds blowing dust through the streets and, at some point, I thought I might see a tumble weed roll around the streets. Our plan, to stop at the place best known for their buffalo burgers failing, since the restaurant didn’t open on Sundays. We ended up at A&W for lunch instead, the first time I chowed down at this particular fast food chain.
After lunch, we drove to the Interpretive Centre for Head Smashed In, a building constructed right into the hillside and just down from where people used to stampede the buffalo over the cliffs. The centre reconstructs the experience extremely well, with many different scenes reconstructed following a progressive time. A short fifteen minute video continues to rotate through, explaining and simulating the entire experience, with the typical disclaimer, “No animals were hurt in the making of this film.” Instead a computer generated image simulation of buffalo running over the edge finishing off the story for us.
It’s a great destination if you ever find yourself in Calgary, and if you’re ever so inclined, they even rent Tipis for groups of people to camp in to experience the prairie land way of life. Find the photos from the day trip here.