Even further out of town, to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Yesterday I drove 150km north, today I drove 190km south to a special place called Head Smashed In. It is an ancient buffalo jump, where the Blackfoot First Nations developed a distinct way of life for over 6000 years. This is such a magical place. No wonder it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.

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In the autumn, when the buffalo were fat from the summer grasses, the Blackfoot would hide under wolf and elk hides and stampede the herd over the jump.

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At the bottom of the jump would be a temporary camp for butchering and preserving and using every single piece of the animal.

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Every animal was mercifully killed, because it was believed that any animal left alive would tell the rest about the jump and the animals would be wiser and stop the stampede.

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Here at Head Smashed In is a spring for fresh water, a river near by, trees for firewood, plenty of wild berries, like saskatoons and chokecherries, and herbs and roots for medicine.

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This way of life seems to be so idyllic to me. I’m sure there were hardships. The winters were brutal and the demand on the people to preserve enough to survive must have been tremendous. But these grass lands are magic. This lovely, rich land and great open skies are so welcoming here in the summer that if I had to go back in time I’d happily be Blackfoot in an Alberta summer.

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These prairies are so beautiful and the wide skies are mesmerizing. The crickets are singing and asking me to stay a little longer. I gather up a small bundle of sage to take home. It’s strong medicine.

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Got even further out of town! Gone to the Royal Tyrell Museum for the day.

So deciding to make the very best of this very bad situation, the road north seemed just fine. So off to the Bad Lands we go to the Royal Tyrell Museum to catch up on out paleontology and 3.9 billion years of evolution.

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Do you know your Cretaceous from your Triassic from your Jurassic? Yeah, I’m a bit rusty too.
Come with me to the museum and we’ll see if we can’t brush up on our history.

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Look at this graceful fossil. This is the penultimate image for me. A small dinosaur, so graceful, so elegant, like a dancer in an impossible pose 145 million years ago. It is very hard to believe that this is a dead creature. It looks so alive.

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Here is Samantha, a young paleontologist, explaining her work for the day. She is excavating a very small bone from thickly caked mud and debris. She lets me hold a knuckle bone. Knuckle bone! Holy smokes. Soon she will have an entire fossil exposed.

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Here is her lab with some of the fossil she is working on.

She tells me that this dinosaur’s teeth were found near his tail. No. Not some funny chase your tail, Night at the Museum, saga. Apparently the Earth moved in such a way to fold the skull to the tail region and the folded again to move the skull away but keep the teeth at the tail. Amazing how the Earth works.

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Look here at the dinosaur’s hall (145-75 million BC) gallery. This is what I love. Albertasaurus, Trex, little bird-like creatures, stegosaurus types. Love these all.

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And here we have the very slow evolution of mammals.
This one’s for my cats. Look guys 12 thousand years ago, sabre-toothed tigers, small cat like creatures, sloths.

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Most of the exhibits were copies of the fossils, and no wonder, the real fossils are extremely fragile. One gallery has the real fossils on exhibit though, including these lovely small creatures.

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We end with the emergence of humanoids and cattle like creatures. What a wonderful day.

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Tomorrow I have it in mind to drive to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, but it requires driving thru a potentially closed and flooded town. we’ll see if I get there. Wish me luck. :)