Calgary, known for its stunning high-rises, buzzing nightlife, and vibrant cultural scene, has a rich historical narrative that’s often overlooked. The city’s historical evolution has shaped the metropolis we know today. From its early indigenous inhabitants to its role in the modern Canadian economy, let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the captivating history of Calgary.
The Indigenous Era
Long before the Europeans arrived, the area now known as Calgary was home to indigenous tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy. The stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife made it an ideal location for hunting and settlement. Historic sites like the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park still contain sacred rock carvings and paintings that offer a glimpse into this early period.
John Glenn, a trader from Ireland, became the first documented European settler in the region in 1873. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 that Calgary began to evolve from a frontier town into a major commercial and agricultural center. The railway brought settlers and entrepreneurs, leading to Calgary’s incorporation as a town in 1884.
The Boom of the Oil Industry
Calgary’s destiny dramatically changed in 1914 with the discovery of oil at Turner Valley, just southwest of the city. The oil boom kicked off an era of rapid growth and prosperity. Oil companies flocked to Calgary, and by the mid-20th century, Calgary had earned its reputation as the heart of Canada’s oil industry.
The Cowboy Culture
Calgary’s cowboy heritage is still alive and well, most famously represented by the Calgary Stampede. Established in 1912 by American rodeo promoter Guy Weadick, the Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition, and festival. It is known as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” drawing over a million visitors each July, celebrating Calgary’s Western culture and heritage.
Calgary has continued to grow and thrive. While oil and gas remain important, the city has diversified its economy, embracing sectors such as technology, film, tourism, and renewable energy. Calgary is now home to over 1.3 million people, making it Alberta’s largest city and the third-largest municipality in Canada.
Despite the skyscrapers and bustling city life, Calgary hasn’t forgotten its roots. The Glenbow Museum, Fort Calgary, and Heritage Park Historical Village serve as repositories of Calgary’s history, preserving its rich heritage for future generations. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply curious, exploring Calgary’s history offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s transformation over the centuries.
So the next time you marvel at Calgary’s modern skyline, remember the rich tapestry of history that contributed to this thriving city. From the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy to the booming oil city, Calgary has a multifaceted history worth exploring.