Ancient History

“Evidence found by archaeologists suggests the first human to pass through what is now Jasper National Park did so around 10,000 years ago.  Obsidian flakes unearthed at Patricia Lake near Jasper, Alberta were traced to Mount Edziza in northwestern BC. This indicated that travel and trade took place in the Athabasca River Valley many thousands of years ago. Some of the most frequent visitors to the Athabasca River Valley were the Assiniboine, which means people who cook with stones”.[1]

“Evidence from a few campsites in the Athabasca Valley indicates an Aboriginal presence near the Snake Indian River as early as 10,000-11,000 years ago, but there is little to suggest a permanent settlement. The Beaver Indians dominated the Alberta foothills and a few Shuswap lived in the Jasper & Mount Robson Area.

According to Timothy Allen, a Masters Student from the University of British Columbia who is focusing his research on alpine hunter-gatherers in Willmore Wilderness and Jasper National Park, about 64 square meters were excavated at Grande Cache Lake in the mid to late 70s. Approximately 4,406 stone artifacts were found, with a wide range of typology, however the majority (93%) were flakes, which were essentially the chips of stone that were broken off when forming or sharpening a stone tool. There were quite a range of stone tools at the Grande Cache Lake site. These included projectile points like arrowheads, spearheads, bifaces (stone knives), choppers (like a hand axe), scrapers (for hide processing), and cores (essentially a rock that has been prepared to start making a tool). There were many bones found at the site, and the archaeologists identified beaver, hare, caribou, bear, and muskrat. They also found some fish scales but couldn’t identify the species. Some of the bones were dated and they yielded a range of ages, 380 years BP (before present), 1770 years BP, 2880 years BP, and two from around 5000 years BP.[2]

Essentially there was evidence that Grande Cache Lake was continuously occupied from around 5,000 years ago to about 1,500 years ago, with a hiatus until about 400 years ago then occupation until the present day Mountain Métis. Timothy Allen stated that animal bones found at the site indicate a pretty general local diet having large game, small game, and also fishing. There were 42 pieces of obsidian found at the site, which is not from the region. Some obsidian found was sourced to Anahim Peak, British Columbia, so this could possibly be from the same source. The other stone types indicate a lot of local and regionally acquired materials. There was some indication of things more available in the Athabasca Valley, found at this site. It was determined that long distance and regional trade occurred at this site, given the presence of these materials.[3]

Iroquois arrived in the area from the late 1790s, certainly in the early 1800s.[4] The earliest travelers in the region were employed by the North West Company and later the Hudson Bay Company.

[1] “The History of Jasper” by Meghan Power

[2] Timothy Allen – Masters Student from the University of British Columbia: Focusing research on alpine hunter-gatherers in Willmore Wilderness and Jasper National Park.

[3] Timothy Allen – Masters Student from the University of British Columbia: Focusing research on alpine hunter-gatherers in Willmore Wilderness and Jasper National Park.

[4] “A Hard Road to Travel” by Murphy, Udell, Stevenson, Peterson