Recent archaeological surveys have found evidence of human use dating back over 10,000 years. These people may have been the ancestors of tribes that live in the area today. By the time the first European explorers came to this region, several different tribes inhabited the area. The Blackfeet Indians controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains. The Salish and Kootenai Indians lived and hunted in the western valleys. They also traveled east of the mountains to hunt buffalo.
In the early 1800’s, French, English, and Spanish trappers came in search of beaver. In 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came within 50 miles of the area that is now the park.
As the number of people moving west steadily increased, the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai were forced onto reservations. The Blackfeet Reservation adjoins the east side of the park. The Salish and Kootenai reservation is southwest of Glacier. This entire area holds great spiritual importance to the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai people.
The railroad over Marias Pass was completed in 1891. The completion of the Great Northern Railway allowed more people to enter the area. Homesteaders settled in the valleys west of Marias Pass and soon small towns developed.
Under pressure from miners, the mountains east of the Continental Divide were acquired in 1895 from the Blackfeet. Miners came searching for copper and gold. They hoped to strike it rich, but no large copper or gold deposits were ever located. Although the mining boom lasted only a few years, abandoned mine shafts are still found in several places in the park.
Throughout time, people have sought out Glacier National Park’s rugged peaks, clear waters, and glacial-carved valleys; its landscape giving both desired resources and inspiration to those persistent enough to venture through it.
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