Elk Island National Park has an extensive cultural history dating back to the receding of the glaciers. There are 227 Native sites recorded, most of which were campsites and stone tool-making sites, and 13 non-native sites which include two refuse pits, remains of homesteader cabins, and the site of Alberta's first Forest Ranger station.
Indigenous Peoples in Elk Island
It is thought that the Sarcee were the first people to inhabit the area. Prior to the 1800s large bands of Cree forced the Sarcee into the surrounding plains. The Cree continued to inhabit the Beaver Hills. Europeans began to demand beaver pelts to satisfy their fashion interests. The Cree became the suppliers of the pelts to the fur traders.
By the mid 1800s, the Plains Cree had settled into familiar hunting patterns on the Canadian prairies. When hunting bison, the Plains Cree travelled and worked together in large bands and used a number of different hunting methods - hunting on horseback and using buffalo pounds (circular enclosures). All of the large ungulates were hunted but the bison was the most sought after. The bison provided a year-round source of food; skins provided materials for shelters, clothing and storage bags; and even the horns and bones were used.
The rich supply of plants and other game in the Beaver Hills area - roots and berries, and deer, moose, and elk, even fish - provided the local Indigenous peoples with a varied and nutritious diet. With the depletion of the game and fur species, the Indigenous peoples left the area.