The Vore Buffalo Jump – Winter Schedule
Sept 2nd – May 31st – The site is closed. Please send us a message if you would like to schedule an off-season tour. We especially love to host school groups! Use the message form on our “Contact Us” Page
The Vore Buffalo Jump – Summer Schedule
June 1st – Labor Day, 8 am to 6 pm. Entrance fee is $7 with a $20 maximum per family.
The Vore Buffalo Jump closes for the winter
We are closed to the general public during the winter. However, please contact us to schedule group tours in the winter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can call us at (307) 266-9530 and leave a message.
Our New Exhibit Building
A new exhibit building has been completed and is now open. It will eventually house displays based upon themes. These draft themes and a draft narrative can be found below. More photos can be found at the bottom of this page.
Theme One – An Exceptional Bison Landscape:
A remarkable set of physical and biological features combined to make the Vore sinkhole attractive to the tribes that inhabited the region surrounding the Black Hills in the Late-Prehistoric era. The first theme exhibits will highlight the physical and biological features of the region that were most relevant to the people who used the Vore Site. A geological model created in 2012 will be part of this theme. The new exhibit building will eventually include a series of three-dimensional maps that will help visitors understand the landscape features that combine to make the northern Black Hills a great buffalo landscape and a magnet for the bison hunters. The first will illustrate such important features as the major watersheds, ecological zones, and geologic features. The second of the maps will “zoom” in to show the region around the Vore Site itself, showing the areas from which the bison herds were gathered and concentrated prior to the hunt, the possible drivelines, and the probable locations of processing camps.
Theme Two – Bison, Giver of Life:
Plains Indians built their culture around the buffalo. Bison were the primary food source as well as the source of many of the material items they used. Studies of Indian religion and philosophy confirm that Indians revere the animals they depend upon. Traditional Indians believe that there are actual kinship relationships between humans and other life forms; that humans are inextricably a part of–not separate from–the natural world. Although it was necessary for Indians to kill animals to survive, they simultaneously believe that all living things, and the earth itself, have their own intrinsic spiritual powers that must be respected and venerated. Theme Two will attempt to explain this profound relationship between buffalo and Plains Indians.
Theme Three – How to Jump a Buffalo:
Many visitors arrive at the VBJ with a vague understanding that Indians drove herds of buffalo over cliffs, but most have almost no appreciation for the complexities of how communal hunts were conducted or how many ingenious variations on the theme were utilized over thousands of years and hundreds of sites. This set of exhibits will explain how communal hunts were probably conducted at the Vore Site.
Theme Four – History of the Vore Buffalo Jump Project and Future Plans:
Theme Four will trace the history of the Vore Buffalo Jump project from the Site’s discover during the construction of Interstate Highway 90 through the current level of development. It will also explain the VBJF’s vision for future development.
Theme Five – Tribes that Used the Vore Buffalo Jump:
The assertion that the ancestors of five or more tribes used the Vore Site during the relatively brief span of 300 years is surprising to many visitors. People with cursory knowledge of the region’s history often make the assumption that Indian cultures and tribal territories were rather static for long periods of time and that the tribes dominant in the Black Hills at the time 19th century history was written were the only users of the Vore Site. One of the important roles that the interpretive efforts at the VBJ can serve for its visitors is to provide them with an understanding that, far from being static, the territories of the Indians of the late-Prehistoric period were changing rapidly in many ways and that major tribal migrations occurred during the time the Vore Buffalo Jump was in use. Theme Five is intended to credit the many tribes who used the Site, briefly explain their tribal developments and movements, and inform visitors of where the tribes are currently located and how they are living and developing.
Theme Six – How to Butcher a Buffalo:
Communal hunts usually occurred in late-autumn (or, rarely in spring) when days are short on the northern Plains and temperatures are low. As soon as all the buffalo in the sinkhole were killed, the process of butchering the animals with stone tools began. Butchering was an extremely laborious endeavor that had to be completed as quickly as possible to avoid meat spoilage. Well over one hundred bison were killed in some hunts. Working conditions, including the sights and smells emanating from massive amounts of flesh, blood, and gore, would be considered ghastly by most modern standards. Nevertheless, Native Americans accomplished the enormous, and literally odious, task of butchering with amazing speed and efficiency and with as little waste as possible.
Theme Seven – How to Process a Buffalo
Indians are known to have made more than 100 different products from buffalo. As winter approached, the primary needs were food and tanned hides in massive quantities. Indians preferred meat from cows and calves to that of bulls because cows and calves have a higher percentage of fat and their muscle meat is more tender than meat derived from bulls. Records document that the Indians tribes prized meat from calves and used it first. Some was eaten fresh in celebratory feasts after successful hunts. Most of the meat had to be processed so that it would not spoil immediately. The primary method of meat preservation was dehydration. The vast majority of the meat from communal hunts was cut into thin strips and dried on racks. Most visitors are familiar with modern jerky giving them some reference to this process.
Theme Eight – How to Transport a Buffalo
The Great Plains are vast. The tribes moved frequently and for long distances during the year and had to transport tipis, food, clothing, and weapons – all their worldly goods – plus small babies and other individuals who could not walk long distances. At the Vore Site, it is several miles between the butchering area in the sinkhole and the likely location of the processing camps on Sand Creek. Many tons of raw meat and hides had to be transported over rough terrain between the sinkhole and the camp. It is news to many visitors that the northern Plains Indians did not possess horses to use as beasts of burden in these enormous logistic efforts at the time that the Vore Site was used as a bison trap.
Theme Nine – How to Excavate a Buffalo:
Theme Ten – Stories in Stone
Pictures of the construction process
A Winter Picture
Closing it in and drilling a well
Plumbing before the concrete is poured
Outside and Inside
A great day to pour concrete!
Floor Looks Great!
We hit good water at 355 feet.
How we look on May 1st, 2013.