Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump

I’ve learned how to say it and I’ve learned how to spell it! No small feat.

Basically, this wonderful visitor attraction in Havre, Montana is a glimpse into history that’s buried under the soil. You can call it Wahkpa Chu’gn or simply the buffalo jump. It’s where native peoples many years ago harvested and processed their meat before the use of firearms and horses.

Archaeologists have sliced into the ground to show the layers of bones, also areas where the soil is colored or where it had been burned. Each layer represents a layer of history.

For myself, as someone who has had no archaeolgical training, it’s an easy way to learn history.

When we visited Wahkpa Chu’gn a week ago we were on the heels of a large school group. It’s always fun to see the enthusiasm of young kids when they visit a place like the buffalo jump. There was a lot of energy visible while they were absorbing history.

Small red huts are erected over the displays to prevent erosion and to get folks out of the weather while they are visiting the jump. A paved trail begins below wooden steps (over 100 steps down to the site). Yup, those energetic kids counted them as they climbed back up!

One other fun aspect at the buffalo jump is the chance to throw an atlatl. It looks like a spear but you hold on to the long portion and let the small one fly. Our group had some pretty good atlatl throwers! A side note – we have a couple of annual atlatl competitions in central Montana that are always open to the public to watch.

Wahkpa Chu’gn is located right behind Holiday Village Mall in Havre, Montana. They are nearly finished with a small interpretive center located at the entrance to the site. We had a sneak preview and I think it will be a nice addition to help teach central Montana’s history.

Next time your wheels are pointed to Havre, allow some time to take in the area’s attractions.

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