Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Friday, September 3, 2010


On my way from Helena to Great Falls, I stopped at the First Peoples Buffalo Jump.

Interpretive center with jump in background

The ranger gave a very interesting talk. This site is believed to be over 900 years old. And, with “wings” over a mile long on each side making it probably the biggest in the world. 14 different tribes used this site. Not many of them were on friendly terms, however if a tribe was in place using the jump, a newly arrived tribe would either back off, or negotiate working with the first tribe. It was considered a sacred site, and no fighting among the tribes ever occurred there.

When my brothers were teenagers, they would ride their bikes out here to look for arrowheads. At that time, it was known as the Ulm Pishkin.

During WWII the family owning the site dug up 155 tons of bones to be used in munitions manufacturing. Decades later, archeologists started digging in the area and discovered – even after the removal of the 155 tons, the bone pile still went down another 13 feet.

Back in the day – “before Contact” there were estimated to be 60 million bison roaming the whole continent - West to East coast - Northern Canada – down into Mexico. The only place they didn’t roam was the desert lands of the Southwest.

I drove around the Butte, and to the parking lot at the top. The Ranger had warned me about rattlesnakes. Not my favorite critters, snakes. So – I carried my “bear bell” with me and kept it jingling all the time I was wandering around the top of the cliffs. I like to think it kept me from any unwelcome encounters.

I took photos of the cliff face, and also wonderful shots of Square Butte. Lewis and Clark had a special name for Square Butte, (which I’ve forgotten), and because of it’s massive size, used it as a beacon on their return from the coast – it could be seen for miles and miles.

I call it my welcome Home sign, because whenever I see it, I know I’m truly home.

This is a view across the prairie to the Highwood Mountains – which are between 50-60 miles distant.

Little Belt Mountains

The wonderful vast prairie

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