Indigenous connections – Jasper National Park


We respectfully acknowledge that Jasper National Park is located within Treaties 6 and 8 as well as Anishinabe, Aseniwuche Winewak, Dene-zaa, Nêhiyawak, Secwépemc, Stoney Nakoda, and Métis traditional lands. We recognize the past, present and future generations of those nations who continue to steward the land.

Before Jasper National Park

Prior to 1907, the boundaries of what is now Jasper National Park did not exist. From time immemorial, a diversity of indigenous peoples lived on this land, used and cared for the natural resources. Some groups spent most of the year in the Rocky Mountains, while others came to the region or crossed it seasonally to access resources and ceremonial sites, to meet other groups, or to use the mountain passes which made it possible to cross the mountains. Indigenous peoples protected the land and resources according to learned principles of conservation and their worldviews that saw humans as part of, and something to remain in balance with, the land and the ecosystems on which they depended. This intimate knowledge of the land is expressed through the concept of respect – respect for the land, respect for living beings, respect for elders and respect for traditional customs.

Artist’s rendering of the Jasper House trading post, circa 1846.
Paul Kane (1810-1871)

Jasper House
1846, watercolor and pencil on paper
5 3/8 x 9 inches (13.7 x 22.9 cm)
Bequest of HJ Lutcher Stark, 1965
Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas.

When Europeans arrived in the area in the early 1800s, Aboriginal peoples continued to care for the lands and resources of the Jasper area while beginning to work as trappers, traders, interpreters and guides. The knowledge and experience of Indigenous peoples allowed European explorers and fur traders to travel through the Northern Rockies westward through the Athabasca and Yellowhead Passes (now National Historic Sites). Some Aboriginal women married European fur traders and provided local knowledge and connections to surrounding Aboriginal communities. In the late 1800s, several First Nations and Métis families settled and farmed near what is now the town of Jasper, while also working as outfitters and hunters for the fur trading companies.

Park creation and removal of indigenous peoples

When Jasper Park Forest Reserve was established in 1907, later officially designated as Jasper National Park with the death of the National Parks Act in 1930, the natural landscape was initially seen as a backdrop for the recreation of European settlers. Indigenous peoples were seen as obstacles to the enjoyment of nature. According to nature conservation policies at the time, indigenous peoples were considered incompatible with nature and therefore could not live, hunt or harvest within the boundaries of the park.

Simpwc Nation members Charli F., Shelley L., Tina D. and Alison G. drum during a pipe ceremony.
Photo: Submitted by Simpcw First Nation

After 1907, First Nations and Métis (see list of Indigenous partners) were forcibly displaced and excluded from this part of their traditional territories. First Nations and Métis peoples have been physically removed from the landscape, prevented from accessing it, and prohibited from harvesting plants and animals, holding gatherings, and accessing cultural sites. Additionally, mountains, rivers, and other parts of the landscape have been renamed to reflect colonial names, and most visible evidence of the existence of indigenous peoples present in the area since time immemorial have been burned or otherwise destroyed – including Aboriginal camps, cabins and farms.

Three years after the park was established, Indigenous peoples, including the Métis, who lived within the park’s boundaries were forced from their homes. Some of the farms of the Métis families that were relocated are still standing and can be visited as interpretive sites on the Snaring Road and Overlander Trail.

The creation of the first national parks disconnected indigenous peoples from the land. It was not just a geographic disconnect but a total disconnect from an important part of their identity. The land is central to the practice of culture, spirituality, ways of life and sense of self.

For many indigenous peoples, their relationship with the land is integral because everything comes from the land: food, clothing, shelter, water and medicine, as well as stories, history, ceremonies and law.

Lisa Shepherd, Métis artist and Métis Nation BC representative of the Jasper Indigneous Forum, practices beadwork along the shores of Maligne Lake.
Photo: Submitted by Métis Nation British Columbia
Aseniwuche Winewak elders, Philomene Moberly and Mabel Wanyandie, process moose meat.
Photo: Submitted by Aseniwuche Winewak Nation


Comments are closed.