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Atlatl competition set in 50th anniversary of Buffalo Jump

Courtesy photo

People at the pizza party held Thursday at Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump for the students, teachers and staff of the YouthBuild program hosted at Montana State University-Northern tried their hand at the atlatl. A wide-open competition for people to try using the ancient weapon, where a handle is used to throw a small spear, is set at Wahkpa Chu'gn this weekend.

An annual tradition is set for this weekend at a site with much longer traditions — the 10th annual atlatl competition at the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump archaeological site west of Havre.

Participants at a pizza party thrown for the students, faculty and staff of the YouthBuild Program hosted at Montana State University-Northern got a taste last week of using the weapon, a precursor of the bow and arrow that 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 YouthBuild students built the John and Anna Brumley Interpretive Center that was erected and completed at the archaeological site last fall and winter and opened this spring.

Wahkpa Chu'gn, located on the bluff just north of the Holiday Village Mall west of Havre, was discovered in 1961 John Brumley while he was a youth, doing a dual search for rabbits to hunt and the ancient bison kill site.

Excavation of the site by the newly formed Milk River Archaeological Society began in 1962 and continued through the 1960s and 1970s under the auspices of the Montana Archaeological Society, the H. Earl Clack Museum and the Hill County government.

After becoming an archaeologist and working in Canada and Montana for several decades, Brumley and his wife, Anna, took over the management of Wahpka Chu'gn.

Displays at the archaeological site show 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, killing the animals and butchering them for their use.

The atlatl competition, a major event at Wahkpa Chu'gn each year, runs from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m. Saturday and 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. Sunday. No entry fee or pre-registration is required.

As usual, members of the World Atlatl Association will be at the event, sharing their atlatls and giving tips and advice on their use.

Tours at a reduced rate of $5 per person will be available noon to 2 p. m. Saturday and Sunday.


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