For the Ktunaxa and other Indigenous peoples living west of the mountains in the 1700s, hunting for bison meant trekking through passes of the formidable Rocky Mountains to the plains of Alberta. Howse Pass was part of the trade and hunting routes linking the plains of Alberta with the Columbia River Valley.

Renowned explorer David Thompson crossed Howse Pass in 1807 and fur traders were quick to establish trading posts along the Columbia River. But within a few years, troubles brewed.

The fur traders disrupted the relationship between the Ktunaxa and the Piikani people of the plains who until then had controlled the Ktunaxa's access to European trade goods, including guns. When David Thompson set out in 1810 for the pass, the Piikani blocked his way. A new route for the fur traders had to be established further north through Athabasca Pass.

Using Howse Pass for trade was short-lived but significant in expanding the fur trade empire west of the Rocky Mountains. The pass is named in honour of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Joseph Howse.