For at least 3,000 years, natives came to the river valley where Edmonton  now stands, searching for quartzite to make stone tools. They had no knowledge of—or use for—the vast underground resources that would eventually cause a city to rise from the wilderness.
European fur traders, canoeing along the North Saskatchewan River, found the area where Edmonton now stands to be one of the richest fur-bearing areas on the continent. Large populations of beavers and muskrats lived in the surrounding spruce, poplar, and aspen forest. In 1795 a fort was established on the site of the present Legislature Building grounds.
It was an ideal location for trading—Cree and Assiniboine could trade beaver, otter, and marten pelts in safety, without encroaching on the territory of fierce Plains Indians, such as the Blackfoot, yet the fort was far enough south to be within range of the Blackfoot, who came north with buffalo meat and other natural resources.
After 100 years, the fur trade ended abruptly as European fashions evolved. Many of the posts throughout the west were abandoned, but Edmonton continued to be an important stop on the route north. Goods were taken overland from Edmonton to Athabasca Landing, where they were transferred to barges or steamers and taken north on the Athabasca River.
When the province of Alberta  was inaugurated on September 1, 1905, the decision about a capital did not come easily. The Alberta Act made Edmonton the temporary capital, but it had plenty of competition, especially from Calgarians, who believed their city to be the financial and transportation center of the province. Heated debates on the subject took place in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, but Edmonton has remained the capital to this day.
Fur was Edmonton ’s first industry and coal was its second (the last of 150 operations closed in 1970), but Edmonton’s future lay in oil. Since the discovery of “black gold” in 1947 at nearby Leduc, Edmonton has been one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities. The building of pipelines and refineries created many jobs, and the city became the center of western Canada’s petrochemical industry. As demand continued to rise, hundreds of wildcat wells were drilled around Edmonton. Farmers’ fields were filled with derricks, valves, and oil tanks, and by 1956, more than 3,000 producing wells were pumping within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the city. A 20-square-kilometer (eight-square-mile) area east of the city was filled with huge oil tanks, refineries, and petrochemical plants. Changes were also taking place within the city as the wealth of the oil boom began to take hold. Restaurants improved and cultural life flourished. The city’s businesses were jazzed up, and the expanding business community began moving into the glass-and-steel skyscrapers that form the city skyline today.
Currently experiencing the trickle down effects of another oil boom, planned developments in the surrounding service area total approximately $40 billion this decade, with Edmonton benefiting directly from spin-off infrastructure. A great deal of this development is associated with the oil sands of northern Alberta, with a new pipeline and processing facilities being built in the city.