John George Brown – or “Kootenai Brown” – was a character straight out of a Wild West fantasy. Born in Ireland and allegedly educated at Eton, he spent time with the British Army in India, decamped to San Francisco, laboured in the gold fields of BC and worked as a Pony Express rider with the US Army. While travelling to the Waterton region he was attacked by Blackfoot natives, and supposedly wrenched an arrow from his back with his own hands. He was then captured by Chief Sitting Bull and tied naked to a stake, but managed to escape in the dead of night to join the rival Ktunaxa, with whom he spent years hunting and trapping, until their retreat from the prairies.
Marriage in 1869 was a calming influence, and encouraged Brown to build a cabin (the region’s first) alongside Waterton Lake. In 1895 a reserve was established, with Brown as its first warden. In 1910 the area was made a “dominion park”, and a year later it was designated a national park, the fourth in Canada. Brown, then aged 71, was made its superintendent, but died five years later, still lobbying hard to extend the park’s borders. His grave lies alongside the main road into Waterton Village.