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Archive for March, 2010

Porcupine Hills- one of the many hunting sites in Alberta

Taking in Alberta’s enormous cattle ranches and hector upon hector of cornfields, it’s hard for me to grasp how richly the area is soaked in history. In fact, it never dawned on me at all when I first moved back here in 2003. (I was born in northern Alberta, but my family left when I was just 3.) As it turns out, the province has very strong Native American roots and bragging rights to the largest deposit of dinosaur remains in the world. Discovering these layers of history has become an intriguing way of learning about a world I thought I’d left behind at a very young age. The thrilling Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is just the beginning.

The aboriginal people of the North American Plains were experts in topography and the behaviour of buffalo, and their method of using both for their own survival was ingenious. For nearly 6,000 years, the native people chased the herds of buffalo throughout the Porcupine Hills, southern Alberta and beyond. Why? For food! But catching the ox-like animals, which travel in tight herds led by dominant females, wasn’t easy. Although buffalo have poor eyesight, they have an amazing sense of smell. This made hunting them a challenge; the clever method they developed explains the odd “head-smashed-in” name of the place.

A model of how camps were set-up

“Drive lanes” were decorated with stone cairns, and below the cliffs, camps buzzed with the sounds of boiling pits and the carving of weapons and other tools needed to prepare a buffalo to eat. Once the wind started to blow over the cliffs, towards the basin, it was time. The winds made it virtually impossible for the buffalo to smell the danger ahead, so the North American Plains people skillfully drove them right to the edge of the cliffs – and then off the sides, to their dramatic deaths.

I began my tour of the area with a short walk outside to the very cliff tops where herds of buffalo once met their dramatic endings. The wind up there was insane, and I was the only person out there at the time, which I loved.  After a few minutes of being whipped around by the powerful gusts, I walked back to the interpretative centre to walk through the exhibits. I was taking notes about Napi (more on that later) when Little Leaf, an anthropologist and former teacher, approached me. Within minutes, my experience at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump shot from a standard museum/art gallery type visit to an enthralling educational experience that lasted more than two hours.

During our time together, Little Leaf was kind enough to share some Blackfoot history he had recorded on a video. If you have some time, take a look. He’s a wonderful storyteller, and I could have listened to him for hours and hours. Before you click play, think of something Little Leaf said to me before filming: when talking about Native Americans “… It is more than feathers and beads”.

Little Leaf was an entertaining man who took time to speak with me about the Blackfoot people. He talked at length about the difference between today’s Native American children and their ancestors. I found it fascinating, and a little scary, that only 2-3% of modern Native American children know and practice their traditional beliefs. As time has progressed, more and more Native American children are forsaking their own customs in an effort to fit into the Western culture. The result? Native American languages and traditions are dying.  This cultural genocide is a horrifying thought. There are so few full-blooded Native Americans still around, and even less who know and speak their language and are familiar with their legends. Theirs is no longer a co-operative environment; things have become more individualistic, more Western. Oh, how I could talk and talk about this topic, but I think it’s best to leave it for another post.

In 1981, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump became a World Heritage Site, and its Interpretive Centre opened its doors in December 1986. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the centre is designed for visitors to start at the top and work their way back down, which I found an exciting break from the norm. After viewing the hunting sites outside, I hiked up to Level 1, where visitors learn about Napi, the mythical creator of the Blackfoot people. A series of boards illustrate the creation of life and the nature and habits of buffalo: “After Napi had the earth all made, he took up some mud and made the shape of a buffalo…”

An oversized tipi reigns over the second level, Napi’s People, which boasts various artifacts, like buffalo hide, which visitors are encouraged to touch. Level 3 brings visitors to the Hunt, where one learns about the drives, and Level 4 is Cultures in Contact. There, visitors learn about the Europeans’ affect on native buffalo culture when they arrived in the early 18th century, toting unforeseen wonders like guns and horses. It’s at that time in history that the traditions and culture of the North American Plains people began to change and, in my opinion, started to decline, as they strove to adapt to Western ways.

At the beginning of Level 5 is a small 80-seat theatre, which shows a 15 min re-enactment video about the hunts. (It’s actually suggested that visitors watch the video first, before beginning their tour, so they can picture how the hunts worked.) The remainder of Level 5 focuses on the archeological aspects of the site, with boards on more modern tools, maps and how discoveries were made.

Head-Smashed-In is not just another stop to make on your tourist list; in fact if you’re planning to visit for the sake of saying you were there, don’t bother. You’re cheating yourself if you do. This site is rich in Native American culture and has powerful spiritual ties to its people. If you plan on having an “experience,” you’ve picked the right spot! Go with excitement and an open mind. If Little Leaf is walking around, stop and talk with him, as he’s a wealth of knowledge. The purpose of the centre is to share knowledge and culture, and the staff are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Who knows, maybe you’ll encounter one of the spirits Little Leaf talked to me about!

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and The Interpretative Centre are located about 16kms northwest of Fort Macleod, Alberta.  Admission fees:  Adults $9, Seniors $8, Youth 7-17 $5, Family $22 and children under 7 are FREE.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Conrad (the name the government gave him) Little Leaf for speaking with me about the site and Blackfoot and Native culture. If you’d like to learn more about the current struggles of Native American people, refer to the Indian Act here: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/I-5/.

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It’s another week, and another Blog Crawl. I love Mondays. I hope my readers love Mondays as well. This week I decided to start my crawl on a blog I’ve been reading and watching for a while, Hop and Jaunt. If you’ve never visited Alyson and John’s blog, you definitely should. They’ve recently re-designed their theme and their new header is killer. However design changes aside, they also have some great posts about their travels around the world. One of my recent favourites is: Getting Lost In the Forbidden City. If you’re thinking of traveling with your significant other or have already started you should definitely read their post: Traveling Couples: Are We Insane? The Travel Guide.

Traveling Savage– Keith’s blog is fantastic. I especially love his post: The Drink Taxonomy of Guys. I almost choked on the water I was drinking when I started reading this post. I know he wrote it in humour, but oh, there is some truth in there!

Bacon is Magic– I love bacon, it’s so bad for you, but tastes so damn good. PLUS she’s a fellow Canadian who will be embarking on a RTW trip later this year. Be sure to check out her blog and read a long as she prepares for her trip through Central and South Americas.

One Giant Step… Is All it Takes– Follow Gillian and Jason’s travels around the world. I clicked on this blog because I liked the name. I then discovered that they were traveling through South East Asia. haha. Their post Halong Bay has been longing for a beach and some warm weather!

A Year In Motion – An Irish-Honduran Duo traveling around the world. Now there’s an interesting combo! Be sure to tune in and follow Ninfa and Tony as they start traveling. They’ve been on the road for 2 whole days now and I’m anxious to check back and read their first on the road post.

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New Design Preview

So this is the basic design for my new look. The coding is being worked on at the moment, so this just has sample text, and the custom items on the right side are blank at the moment. I changed this so many times. I think the designer probably wanted to kill me. However, this site is a representation of me, and it was important that it look just so.

So, tell me what you think.  I can’t really change anything now, but I’m sure there will be additions and adjustments as time goes on. The yellow tab at the top that says “Monkey” is the page for my 2yr old niece. This is where my brother will go while I’m away and I’ll have special posts or videos in there for her.

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Illegally Leaving London


After 2 sparkling days in Paris, London left me slightly disappointed. I was staying at St. Christopher’s in Camden Town- which wasn’t bad, but the neighbourhood was dirty. In fact I felt like I needed a HAZMAT suite as I slide into a phone booth to phone home. After walking the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, Buckingham Palace looked like a big white box with a flag (sorry, I’m really not trying to be offensive). The best part about my time in London was that the Tube was under maintenance and major downtown lines were closed while I was there, which often rendered me completely lost!

After 2 days in London I was more than ready to board a plane and fly home. I was also seriously low on funds as the GBP is so damn expensive! On the day that I was to fly home I walked into the Camden Tube station and bought a 2 zone ticket. If you’re at all familiar with the London Tube, you’ll know that in order the get to Heathrow I needed a 6 zone ticket.

I sat on the train enjoying the scenery until we left the downtown core, then I was looking for cops at every station who would likely come aboard, discover my ticket was no good, and either kick me off or give me some insanely expensive ticket. It was a nervous ride to Heathrow, but when the train finally stopped I was relieved. I had made it all the way to the airport without incident. Until I reached the top of the stairs, saw the transit guys and the turnstiles.

Crap! I knew my ticket would just pop back out of the machine and I wouldn’t be able to pass. I had very little change in my pocket, and no way to pay for a proper ticket. I decided to hold back a little as it was busy and I didn’t want to have some huge embarrassing scene that would result in my crying, being ticketed or yelled at. So I walked towards a wall with my backpack and pretended to look for something while the crowd dissipated.

It was while standing at the wall that I notice a gate with a guard that’s used for passengers with large luggage. But he would stop me as well and ask to see my ticket. I had almost gathered my nerves when two women started asking the transit dude some questions. I hesitated for only a minute before swallowing hard, grabbing my pack and walking towards the gate. I smiled, looked straight ahead and walked right through without him noticing, and I kept walking! In fact I was too nervous to look back in case somebody had clued in!

Yep, I know what you’re thinking… “Oooo some rebel you are!” as you sarcastically whistle. But I’ll have you know that although I have never been inside some Turkish prison, I do have a problem with confrontation and sneaking past some transit dude who could cause some seriously embarrassing moments for me makes me a rebel. So raspberries to you!! ☺

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Driving east on 9th Ave, past Fort Calgary, you’ll come to an old steel bridge with the word Inglewood overhead. Crossing the bridge is like leaving the big bad city and driving into small town Canada. It’s weird and cool all at once. Inglewood is said to be THE new hip neighbourhood in Calgary. I’ve visited Inglewood a few times now and as with all neighbourhoods (or small towns) a few places stand out each and every time.  One of those places is Spolombo’s.

Spolombo‘s is an authentic Italian Deli founded by 3 former CFL players (and childhood friends) Tom Spoletini, Mike Palumbo and Tony Spolentini. Spolombo’s is famous for their handmade sausages (which are a favourite during BBQ season).  In fact I have friends who drive out to Inglewood just to buy Spolombo sausage.  Although their sausages are good, I prefer their panini sandwiches.

Spolombo’s isn’t the only attraction in Inglewood. They also have several funky shops, and a Harley Davidson shop which is quite popular in the summer time. If you’re in Calgary at the beginning of August you won’t want to miss Inglewood Sunfest.

Inglewood Sunfest is a New Renaissance Arts Fair, and will be held on Saturday, August 1st from 11am – 5pm. Stroll 9th Avenue SE and check out the unique shops, yummy restaurants, and pubs. If shopping and eating is not your thing, check out the Art Bazaar filled with local Calgary artists, or watch one of the street performers. It’s one big street party, with bands playing on both ends of the avenue.

Munch on some grub at the Food Fair (located on the corner of 9th Avenue and 12 Street SE) and sit to watch the Fringe performers take the stage as they give you a sneak peek at their shows. Then go grab tickets to the theatrical performances you like to see at the Fringe Information Booth.

Whether you’re hungry, or looking for some funky shops to spend your money, Inglewood has a lot to offer. Personally, as a photography lover, I love to drive through the back streets to see what I can capture through the lens of my Nikon D60.

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Vlog: Intro for Monkey

As I’ve mentioned before, I plan on shooting some video while I travel for my Niece whose 2yrs old. I know, she’s young. However she pretty smart and talking to her through video means she will know what I look like!! However, with this being my second video, I am still trying to master the art of filming myself and therefore I’m still cutting part of my head off!! I think I’ll have to invest in a tripod pretty soon. 🙂

This video will appear on her very own page on my new site design once it’s been coded etc. However, I’m not sure when the site will re-launch, so I’m giving you a sneak peak. I’ll warn you now, it’s pretty basic.

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