An annual tradition is set for this weekend at the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump, where people can try their hand at an ancient hunting technique.
The Eighth Annual Atlatl Competition will be held at the archaeological site, behind the Holiday Village Mall.
The competition, which is free and open to the public, will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The weapon, a precursor of the bow and arrow, uses a handle to throw a small spear at the target.
World Atlatl Association members will be at the competition to share their knowledge and atlatls. Association members also will travel through the course with groups of competitors to help with their use of the ancient weapon.
The course this year will have five targets of varying difficulty. Each participant will make two throws at each target.
A popular moving target, the “Running Buffalo,” will again be offered this year.
Cash prizes totaling $500 will go to the winners in each of the three divisions: men, women and youths.
Free guided tours of the site will be available Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Wahkpa Chu’gn, located on the bluff just north of the Holiday Village Mall west of Havre, was discovered in 1962 by Havreite John Brumley while he was a child. The site was excavated and developed in the 1960s and 1970s by the Montana Archaeological Society and the Milk River Archaeological Society under the auspices of the Clack Museum and the Hill County government.
After becoming an archaeologist, Brumley continued excavations and development at the site, and in 1992 he and his wife, Anna, took over the management of Wahpka Chu’gn.
The archaeological site is open for tours, showing the excavations and archaeological material dating back as much as 2,000 years ago. It shows a history of the American Indians in the area stampeding bison off the cliff and butchering the animals for their use.
A promotion of the site has been put on hold due to weather delays. The H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum Foundation, which raises funds for the operation of the Clack Museum and the bison kill site, hired Canadian artist Jim Marshall of Medicine Hat to make a brick mural promoting the site.
The mural will be erected next to a hotel being built at Boot Hill Plaza just east of the Holiday Village and the Montana Department of Transportation Havre offices.
Anna Brumley said the wet weather this spring and summer have delayed the completion of the mural. While some of the bricks to create the mural made by Marshall have been transported down to the site, creation of the mural is awaiting some other preparatory work to be completed.
The museum foundation is selling plaques to be engraved with names to be emplaced in the wall containing the mural. Proceeds from those sales will go to work at Wahkpa Chu’gn.
Work has been ongoing to improve the archaeological site, including stabilizing and repairing the structures containing the exhibits and cleaning and fixing those exhibits, as well as improving the path through the site. Funds for that work have come from state grants, local matches, the county’s budget and the foundation.
For more information about the atlatl competition, people can call Anna Brumley at 265-6417 or 945-3503.
On the Net: Wahkpa Chu’gn bison kill site: www.buffalojump.org.