Blackfeet Reservation dig uncovering 1,000 year old history

Archaeologists are teaming with Blackfeet tribal citizens to uncover a vast hunting complex and bison kill site
along the Two Medicine River that was used at least 1,000 years ago. Researchers say the 9-mile-long project area, containing a preserved system for driving bison over a cliff, bison bones and remnants of two campsites, could become one of the largest and most significant Blackfeet heritage sites in the region.

The Two Medicine bison jump site is located in the southeastern corner of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation on a plateau overlooking the river. Researchers, led by Dr. Maria Nieves Zedeno of the University of Arizona in Tucson, say they’re eager to study how late prehistoric and later hunters — Blackfeet and others — used the land to kill bison. They also want to expand people’s knowledge about this now extinct way of life.

For hundreds of years, Native Americans and other hunters in this region used bison jumps to kill herds of bison for food and hides. Typically, scouts located the herds and drove them toward the drive-
lines, which were created to funnel the stampeding bison toward and over a cliff. Most of the bison
were killed by the long fall, with the surviving animals killed by hunters who waited at the bottom.

John Murray, the Blackfeet Tribe’s historic preservation officer, said the ongoing research at the Two Medicine site will help tribal citizens understand their history, and integrate the tribe’s creation stories with science and culture. The site is said to be near the birthplace of Blackfeet legend Kutoyuis. Murray said officials hope to build an interpretive center for this site, but that will come far in the future.

Murray said there have been many interviews with elders conducted by crewmembers in connection to this project. Zedeno said the project incorporates an underrepresented constituency, the Blackfeet Tribe, into archaeological research. It also promotes a process that is scientifically sound and compatible with traditional knowledge and practices.

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