Native people camped in the Waterton Valley some 8,500 years ago. By 500 b.c. a plains culture based on buffalo hunting was firmly established. By a.d. 500 the locals picked up and moved to the western slopes of the Rockies and became known as the Kootenai (or, in Canada, the Kootenay). Kootenai hunters continued to travel regularly to the Waterton area for bison until they were forced from the plains by the Blackfeet, who controlled the southern Alberta plains from the early 1700s until the buffalo disappeared a century later.
Oil seepages had been noticed by Indians and early white settlers, and in the early 1900s, modest oil strikes were accompanied by major machinery and ruckus. This disruption, and the formation of Glacier National Park  in 1910, led to the establishment of Waterton Lakes National Park Dominion Park in 1911. Although hunting and commercial fishing were prohibited within park boundaries, building was not, and a community soon developed on the north shore of Upper Waterton Lake . Kootenai Brown, a well-educated mountain man who’d settled near the lakes, was named the park’s first superintendent.