Indians in the Rockies


128 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919381-15-4





Reviewed by Jenifer Lepiano

Jenifer Lepiano was a writer and drama teacher in Toronto.


Once upon a time, more than a hundred centuries ago, campfires burned in the Rocky Mountains near the site of the mountain village of Banff. Today tourists driving the Trans-Canada Highway west from Calgary little suspect that they follow one of the oldest trails in North America.


This remarkable book grew out of Banff Indian Days, Banff’s cultural festival that expired in recent years after surviving almost ninety years. Instead of simply commemorating the festival, author Jon Whyte has written a much larger work, a “geography of Indian people in the Rockies.”

Whyte’s journey along the ancient trails leads from the retreat of the Pleistocene ice to the construction of pipelines and highways. The diminishing buffalo herds, the slow westward expansion of the fur trade, the successive waves of smallpox and Christianity, tourism and industry — this is sadly familiar ground. But Whyte’s view from the mountains and valleys lets us see freshly. Whyte is Curator of the Heritage Collection of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, and his family’s connections with the Stoney Indians go back a hundred years. His own profound engagement with his subject comes through both in personal recollection and in up-to-date awareness of pertinent research.

Indians in the Rockies ends with a stunning portfolio of photographs and paintings that help the reader sense the bond between this land and its people — Stoney, Shushwap, Sarcee, Kootenay and Cree — and understand their unwilling submission to the present or, rather, to that present despair that is the coldness of irreplaceable loss. It is a loss, after all, that we all share.


Whyte, Jon, “Indians in the Rockies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,