Date of this Version
Published in Great Plains Research 19.2 (Fall 2009): 239.
Jack Brink has written an important and engaging book, his personal tribute to the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta, Canada. This is an easy-going, almost conversational narrative, but it’s easy to detect the author’s passion and the solid science that lies behind his simple words.
Imagining Head-Smashed-In boasts a remarkably broad and well-crafted table of contents. Brink begins with an overview of Head-Smashed-In, patiently explaining to professional and lay reader alike why this particular archaeological site should command our attention. As an admitted zealot, he doesn’t shy away from occasional hyperbole: “If hunters of the Plains were engaged in the most rewarding procurement of food ever devised by human being, maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.” In Brink’s view, this cliff face and “simple lines of rocks” ranks right up there with, say, Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China; this is, after all, one of fewer than 900 places designated by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Site.” The stage then shifts to the main character, the American buffalo (or, as Brink points out, more properly called the North American bison). Two chapters chronicle the biology, life history, and especially seasonal behavior of “the great beast of the Plains.”