Throughout human existence, the primary energy used has been kinetic energy. This energy, the motion and energy created through the human body with its skeletal and muscular systems, has been used to advance life and civilization over the ages. A range of early human tools survive that document the first attempts to maximize energy output. These include tools that increase the force a human is able to place on an object, such as stone hammers, axes, knives, spears and arrowheads, as well as tools that increase human carrying power, such as baskets woven from plants or animal fibres, so that items could be collected and transported.
In addition to developing tools to maximize their own muscle power, early peoples also sought to harness other sources of energy in order to survive. The heat and light energy provided by fire, for example, was essential to survival, allowing people to stay warm and cook food. In addition to these basic purposes,
Indigenous peoples in what is now Alberta used fire for a whole range of other reasons. Controlled fires in the boreal forest, for example, were used to clear scrub brush and dead trees, maintain trails, and stimulate the growth of new plants (and in the process, attract wildlife). Fires were used by early people on the open prairie as well in order to communicate with each other and to control the migration routes of bison and other animals. Controlled burning was also one of the strategies used by early hunters to herd and stampede bison over buffalo jumps, most famously at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in present-day southern Alberta.
By fashioning tools to amplify their own kinetic energy, and by burning grass and wood to release stored energy in the form of heat and light, Alberta’s earliest inhabitants maximized their available resources and adapted to their environment.