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Distributed for Athabasca University Press

Imagining Head-Smashed-In

Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

For millennia, Aboriginal hunters on the North American Plains used their knowledge of the land and of buffalo behaviour to drive their quarry over cliffs. Archaeologist Jack Brink has written a major study of the mass buffalo hunts and the culture they supported before and after European contact. By way of example, he draws on his 25 years excavating at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in southwestern Alberta, Canada – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

360 pages

Table of Contents

Foreward by Eldon Yellowhorn



1. The Buffalo Jump

Communal Buffalo Hunting

Not Just Any Cliff

The Site

The Cliff

How Long Have Buffalo Jumped?

Blood on the Rocks: The Story of Head-Smashed-In

2. The Buffalo

Is it Bison or Buffalo?

In Numbers, Numberless

Tricks of the Trade

The Fats of Life

3. A Year in the Life




The Big Picture

Science and the Historic Record

The Seasonal Round


Fall and Winter


The Season of Buffalo Jumping

4. The Killing Fields

Finding Bison

Drive Lanes

Points in Time

Ancient Knowledge

Back to the Drive Lanes


In Small Things Forgotten

5. Rounding Up

The Spirit Sings

The Nose of the Buffalo

Fire this Time

Luring the Buffalo

Buffalo Runners

Lost Calves

Billy’s Stories

The End of the Drive

Of Illusions, Pickup Trucks, and Curves in the Road

6. The Great Kill

Leap of Faith


Drop of Death

Bones on Fire

Let the Butchering Begin

Bison Hide as Insulator

Back to the Assembly Line

7. Cooking up the Spoils

The Processing Site

Day Fades to Night

Dried Goods

Grease is the Word

High Plains Cooking

Hazel Gets Slimed

Buffalo Chips

Hot Rocks

Time for a Roast

Where are the Skulls?

Packing Up, Among the Bears

8. Going Home

Buffalo Hides


Snow Falling on Cottonwoods

9. The End of the Buffalo Hunt

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