People of the Parkway – Part 1. First Nations

Archaeological evidence shows that First Nations people have been present in the Icefields Parkway area for thousands of years. More than 20 distinct aboriginal groups have been identified.

These include the present day Aseniwuche Winewak, or Rocky Mountain People, who have descended from the Cree, Iroquois, Beaver, Sekani, Assiniboine, Ojibwa and Shuswap First Nations.


At least since the 1700’s, the Ktunaxa of the Columbia Valley west of the Rockies crossed the mountains at what is now Howse Pass to hunt buffalo on the plains.

Early explorers relied heavily on First Nations peoples and employed them as guides, interpreters and hunters.

David Thompson made trouble for himself when he supplied guns to Ktunaxa people in the Kootenay Valley. This angered their rivals, the Blackfeet. Feeling threatened, Thompson was forced to abandon Howse Pass, his preferred crossing place, to find an alternate route to the Columbia Valley. Athabasca Pass was discovered as a result.