Story of Region and Its People

Rural Municipality

The Municipal District of Bighorn Number 8, previously Improvement District Number 8, was created in January of 1988. The municipal district (M.D.) is located east of Banff National Park, along the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rocky Mountains.


The municipal district is a rural municipality that covers approximately 2700 square kilometres and is comprised of wilderness areas and five hamlets:
  • Benchlands
  • Dead Flats
  • Exshaw
  • Harvie Heights
  • Lac des Arcs

Land Use

The land encompassed by the municipal district has various uses such as recreational, agricultural, forestry and ranching. There are also several industrial sites within the municipal district that take advantage of the natural resources in the area, including oil and gas, hydropower, cement production and mineral extraction of magnesium and lime.

Pre-Contact Occupation of the Bow Valley & the Mountain Stoney

The Bow Valley area was occupied for hundreds of years before Europeans discovered the New World. Pictographs in the Bow Valley are estimated to be over a thousand years old, and the painted images predate the aboriginal groups that currently call the region home. (1) These images include bison, human figures, moose, deer, elk, and handprints, some of which are located higher than a human could reach unassisted and would have required the use of scaffolding or ladders to place on the cliff. (2)

The people living in the Bow Valley at the time of contact were the Assiniboia, or Mountain Stoneys, whose language, Nakoda, is closely related to the Sioux in the United States.(3,4) The Assiniboia immigrated to the area from the southern United States around 1640 AD, and were some of the first peoples to trade with the Bay Company (HBC) when the HBC ventured west. (5) By 1790, the Assiniboia had formed two distinct groups in western Alberta: the Mountain Stoney and the Plains Stoney. (6)

Read More


1 Rob Alexander and Dene Cooper, Exshaw: Heart of the Valley, Manitoba: Exshaw Historical Society, 2005, page 28.
2 Ibid., pages 28 and 29.
3 Alberta Online Encyclopedia, Voices:
4 Ibid., 30.
5 Ibid., 30
6 Ibid., 30 31.