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[book cover] Imagining Head-Smashed-In

Jack W. Brink

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February 2008

9781897425008 (Hardcover)
9781897425046 (Paperback)
9781897425091 (PDF)
9781897425091 (ePub)

$85.00 (hardcover)

$35.95

Subject
Anthropology & Archaeology / History: Western / Indigenous Studies

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Awards

Award
Jack Brink is the 2012 winner of the Felicia A. Holton Book Award. “Brink is a consummate storyteller, and his book advances our understanding of archaeology in the best ways.”
 
Award
Winner of the 2009 City of Edmonton Book Prize.
 
Award
Imagining Head-Smashed-In has been awarded by the Society for American Archaeology as the best archeology book of 2009 in the popular writing category.
 
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About the Book

At the place known as Head-Smashed-In in southwestern Alberta, Aboriginal people practiced a form of group hunting for nearly 6,000 years before European contact. The large communal bison traps of the Plains were the single greatest food-getting method ever developed in human history. Hunters, working with their knowledge of the land and of buffalo behaviour, drove their quarry over a cliff and into wooden corrals. The rest of the group butchered the kill in the camp below.

Author Jack Brink, who devoted 25 years of his career to “The Jump,” has chronicled the cunning, danger, and triumph in the mass buffalo hunts and the culture they supported. He also recounts the excavation of the site and the development of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, which has hosted 2 million visitors since it opened in 1987. Brink’s masterful blend of scholarship and public appeal is rare in any discipline, but especially in North American pre-contact archaeology.

Brink attests, “I love the story that lies behind the jump—the events and planning that went into making the whole event work. I continue to learn more about the complex interaction between people, bison and the environment, and I continue to be impressed with how the ancient hunters pulled off these astonishing kills.”


2012 Holton Book Award Winner: Jack W. Brink

Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains by Jack W. Brink?comprehensively and beautifully recounts the practices of North America’s Great Plains hunters some 9,000 years ago. Having worked for many years as an archaeologist at the site of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (located between Calgary, Alberta, and the Montana state line), Brink examines these people’s ingenious use of the landscape of the vast plains to carry out buffalo kills on an extraordinary scale.?Brink is a consummate storyteller, and his book advances our understanding of archaeology in the best ways. He provides the general reader with a solid understanding of archaeological fieldwork and explains how evidence is gathered, how the “story” of a site and a people is constructed from that evidence, and, ultimately, how such a site can be preserved for visitors according to best practices.?



About the Author

Jack W. Brink is Archaeology Curator at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. He received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota and his M.A. from the University of Alberta. His interests also include the study of rock art images of the northern Plains, and he enjoys working with Aboriginal communities on heritage issues.

 

 

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Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 CA). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited.

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Select a Chapter

Download Front Matter

Download Table of Contents

Download Foreword

Download Preface

Download Acknowledgements

DownloadCHAPTER 1:
The Buffalo Jump

DownloadCHAPTER 2:
The Buffalo

Download CHAPTER 3:
A Year in the Life

DownloadCHAPTER 4:
The Killing Field

DownloadCHAPTER 5:
Rounding Up

DownloadCHAPTER 6:
The Great Kill

Download CHAPTER 7:
Cooking Up the Spoils

Download CHAPTER 8:
Going Home

เกมส์ยิงปลาออนไลน์Download CHAPTER 9:
The End of the Buffalo Hunt

Download CHAPTER 10:
The Past Becomes the Present

DownloadEPILOGUE:
Just a Simple Stone

Download Sources to Notes

DownloadReferences Cited

DownloadIndex


Additional Material

DownloadFurther References by Chapter

DownloadBibliography

1. Edmonton Journal
2. Alberta Native News
3. Prairie Post
4. National Post



Edmonton Journal
Review by Ken Tingley
February 8, 2009

Bringing to life Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Deeply personal, poetic take on Alberta's First Nations history invites readers into the magic of a sacred site

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a World Heritage Site located in southwestern Alberta along the southeastern rim of the Porcupine Hills west of Fort Macleod. This important area, used intermittently for more than 6,000 years, has a profound story to tell about the peopling of North America by its first inhabitants. It exemplifies the subtle relationship between First Nations and the land, and the complex ways in which they found a close interrelationship over the millennia. It is this story that has directed the life and career of Jack Brink for almost three decades.

Brink, who has studied and written about buffalo jumps and native rock art for years, in addition to his deep involvement with many native cultural heritage projects, is curator of archeology at the Royal Alberta Museum. In Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains, he presents a deeply felt and frequently poetic narrative in which he not only gives us a solid introduction to the issues of Northern Plains archeology, but also brings his experience with this magical site into play. This allows Brink to imagine, and lead our imaginations, into those unknown areas where instinct and intuition remain essential to understanding the prehistoric past.

"To put flesh on the skeletons of these people's lives we have to dream along with them," he writes. "Capturing people and events that disappeared from our world centuries ago requires a judicious helping of imagination ... ."

Brink takes readers on an exploration of the site, telling its story in an irresistible personal voice into which he pours his heart and soul. What comes through is the author's deep respect for his subject. "It can be a daunting prospect," he confides, "knowing that you have to speak for people who are no longer here to speak for themselves. A great weight can descend upon you as you wonder if you have represented these voiceless cultures fairly ... ."

The buffalo jump at Head-Smashed-In was a tremendously successful hunting and processing site, although mysteriously abandoned for some 2,000 years before being reactivated around the beginning of the Christian era. Brink even speculates that it could have produced enough meat in virtual "factories" at the foot of the killing cliffs to serve as a source for trade. It certainly was uniquely efficient for the meat gathering essential to the people living in the region. When the bison were directed over the fatal "jump," perhaps more properly called a "fall," an event occurred that was the indispensable foundation of a whole culture. "In the blink of an eye they obtained more food in a single moment than any other people in human history."

Much of the story at the buffalo jump is not accessible to the uneducated eye. The interpretive centre located at this provincial site, surely one of the most successfully implemented such centres in its sensitivity to the all-important terrain in which it stands, goes far to explain the location. However, the story is a subtle and multifaceted one. Imagining Head-Smashed-In is invaluable preparation for any visit there, synthesizing as it does the wisdom and observation of the native elders, accounts of early explorers and the work of archeologists. Comparing the site with more spectacular archeological icons such as the Great Pyramid, Brink concludes that "simple lines of rocks stretching across the Prairies are every bit as inspirational as rocks piled up in the shape of a pyramid." Readers who visit Head-Smashed-In probably will never view it in the same way after reading this book.

Communal hunting directed and shaped aboriginal society at every level. Brink takes us beyond the bonebeds located at the foot of the cliffs, "merely the detritus of people's knowledge," and relates these final remnants to the broader picture of terrain, bison behaviour, and the seasonal round of a hunter society.

Head-Smashed-In was just the right combination of features -- "not just any cliff." It is probably the oldest known buffalo jump, with the possible exception of one in Texas. Imagining the use of the jump depends upon an understanding of how the aboriginal seasonal round corresponded with bioenergetic principles learned over centuries through hard experience and observation.

Drives were timed to use periods when herds would yield the most fat per volume of biomass taken during a hunting event. "Native groups orchestrated every aspect of a communal bison kill, including choosing the season in which they were held." Head-Smashed-In jump was ideally suited to exploit these patterns of bison physiology and seasonal movement. In the fall and early winter cow-calf groups, then with the highest chemical fat content in its collective tissue, and with the thickest hides for robes, would gather in Olson Creek basin above the kill site, where the true "magic" that led to its success occurred. Natural herd drift was directed toward the "brink of death," a term Brink must have smiled over when he wrote it. The lanes were defined by rock platforms, on which temporary hazing structures made of vegetation were mounted before a hunt, an evolving form of subtle and complex "landscaping" which changed over time, with one ultimate, lethal goal. No other jump appears to have been as successful as Head-Smashed-In.

Imagining Head-Smashed-In is available online through Athabasca University, as well as in paperback and hardcover editions. But its glorious photographs, maps and other graphic elements might lead readers interested in this outstanding Alberta cultural site to buy the hardcover edition.