RSS Feed

Tag Archives: history

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

We went to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 50 km from Pincher Creek and with Waterton’s majestic skyline.

This area is the traditional home of the Niitsítapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) which means ‘original people.’ The Piikáni (North Piegan), a member of the confederacy, traveled to Waterton’s Blakiston Valley and gathered at Akaitapi (good campsite). The area was also used by the Ktunaxa (Kootenay or Kootenai) who came from the west and provided food, water, and shelter.

The Niitsítapi gathered at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and used innovative strategies to hunt the plains bison. Legend has it the name comes from an unfortunate incident when a young man wanted a closer view of the action. He waited at the base of the cliff, but the hunt was extremely successful and, when he was found, he had sustained a broken skull and died.

Archaeologists discovered evidence that this site was on a migratory path for indigenous people at least 5500 years ago. A buffalo jump or ‘pishkun’ in Niitsítapi used drive lanes marked by rock cairns. The buffalo ran in the drive lanes and, as they approached the cliff, the last part of the drive lane sloped up and the jump was not noticeable. The process required perfect human timing and was extremely dangerous.

A small herd of bison live in a paddock at Waterton, but at one time these animals covered the Great Plains of North America. The bison is often called a ‘walking supermarket’ as almost all its body parts were usable and often harvested.

Super store on legs

Symbolic prairie icon

A sideshow item.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is at the confluence of three geological formations. The Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains are well-known. The picture below is the rise into the Porcupine Hills. In the foreground is a hill where young Niitsítapi men transitioned to manhood through a vision quest. The hill, due to its spiritual significance to the Niitsítapi people, does not have public access.

Young person’s journey

Discover one’s inner self

Quest into adulthood.

We watched traditional dancing and heard traditional drumming and singing at the interpretive centre . The drum is symbolic of Mother Earth’s heartbeat  in Niitsítapi tradition.

Drum reverberates

Symbol of Mother Earth’s heart

We are one with Her.

Winery (Napa Valley)

The picture of the little chapel reminded me of when I was young and living in Northern Alberta. It was a treat to go for a day to Dunvegan Provincial Park. There was a small church there. More recently, Kathy and I visited the five missions in San Antonio and the Chapel in the Rock overlooking Sedona, AZ. There is a peacefulness when you sit in these small chapels that is hard to find anywhere but in nature itself.

miki bong

View original post

Images to Provoke Thought

I am doing two things with this posting. First, this is the first time I am posting twice on the same day. Second, it is the first time I am posting something other than a professional reflection. These images do reflect learning. I am terrified of heights. Even when I sit in the car, with my eyes closed at the Grand Canyon, I am aware I am at the edge of an abyss. This fear is both irrational and ironic. As an ice hockey player, I play goal and have faced shots of approximately 90 miles an hour. It could be argued this is foolish and I must be afraid. The irrational nature of fear and non-fear allows me to say, “I am not afraid.” If I could explain what draws me play goal, I would probably not do it. What I have concluded is I feel in control when I play goal, but do not when I fly, sit at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or climb a ladder and, as a result, suffer. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, shared this about suffering in a recent posting: “Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as ‘whenever you are not in control’.”

Fortunately, Kathy comes to my rescue in moments of suffering and takes great pictures to share her experience. In that way, it is a shared experience and, for that, I am grateful. I see and experience these moments through her eyes.


This is the Chapel of the Holy Cross built into the wall of the canyon overlooking Sedona, Arizona.


This is the Grand Canyon at Desert View which is the beginning of the trip along the North Rim of the Canyon. At the bottom of the several thousand foot drop, you catch a glimpse of the Colorado River.


This is the watchtower where the previous photo was taken. I did make it inside and felt somewhat secure in the idea that I would not fall to the bottom of the canyon. I did look out the windows. The watchtower is an amazing, contemporary acknowledgement of the history and nature of the region as evidenced by the art work on the walls.


These are the remnants of living quarters of a group of people who lived in the Grand Canyon area about 800-900 years ago. It is part of what is called the Tusayan Ruins. I was able to get out of the car as this was on the other side of the highway from the Grand Canyon. The people who lived here were small and did not grow to more than 5 feet in height, so the living quarters were quite small. What caused them to leave? That is an eloquent question open to discussion.


This is a picture of Kathy and I at Tusayan. You can see I am still concerned about the idea we are 7000 feet above sea level. Only a small smile sneaks out. If you squint, the snow-covered peaks of the San Francisco mountain range are in the background. This weekend concluded the Arizona ski season. The highest peak is 12,000 plus feet and several peaks remain snow covered year round.

This is a tiny sampling of pictures taken over the past week. Kathy takes pictures to overcome my fear of heights while visiting  places like the Grand Canyon, Jasper, and Yellowstone.

%d bloggers like this: