Both Aboriginal people and fur traders recognized the importance of wildlife and plants. In the isolated posts at Rocky Mountain House, survival depended upon living off the land.
Plains bison at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
Bison played a central role in the lives of the nomadic Aboriginal peoples of the Prairies for thousands of years; the animals provided food, shelter, clothing, tools, and weapons. Bison were also of great use to the fur traders whose main source of nourishment during their travels back and forth across the continent was pemmican, a high-calorie mix of bison meat, fat, and berries.
You can see a herd of plains bison at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. These animals came from Elk Island National Park of Canada, where most of the world's pure bred plains bison originate.
To learn more about this story, visit the Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures section of Elk Island National Park's website .
Bison can be dangerous. Do not enter the bison paddock .
Living off the Land: Early Husbandry at Rocky Mountain House
A strange and harsh frontier greeted the first fur traders at Rocky Mountain House. Starvation and illness were commonplace. To survive, the traders learned from the Aboriginal people's knowledge of nature. The land provided them with their basic needs: food, shelter, and medicine.
Most of the plants used as food or medicine still grow along the paths in Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site of Canada. The plants change with the seasons and cannot always be found easily. Trail signs mark some of the significant plants and their uses.
The Aboriginal people and the traders depended on nature's remedies. However the dosages and methods of preparation described are not intended or recommended for use.
Kinnikinik or Common Bearberry
Silverberry or Wolf Willow
Wild Mint or Canada Mint
North Saskatchewan River on a fall day© Marg French
Our waterways are the highways of the past. The complex system of rivers and lakes across the country provided a means of transportation for the Aboriginal peoples and fur traders. To learn more about the vital role water has played and continues to play in our lives, visit the following links.
The Canadian Heritage Rivers System has designated 39 Heritage Rivers across the country. The source of the North Saskatchewan River within Banff National Park is a Heritage River. The Heritage Rivers System celebrates the role of rivers in Canada's history and society.
The North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance is a non-profit society in Alberta. Their purpose is to protect and improve the province's water quality and ecosystem in the North Saskatchewan Watershed.