Archaeological evidence show a human presence dating back 3,000 years. The nomadic Sekani, followed by the Dunneza and then the Cree, periodically lived in temporary settlements around the future municipality. Formal exploratory and surveying expeditions were conducted by S. Prescott Fay, with Robert Cross and Fred Brewster in 1914, J.C. Gwillim in 1919, Edmund Spieker in 1920, and John Holzworth in 1923. Spieker coined the name Tumbler Ridge, referring to the mountains northwest of the future town, by altering Gwillim's map that named them Tumbler Range. Permanent settlers were squatters, five families by 1920, who maintained trap lines. In the 1950s and 1960s oil and natural gas exploration and logging was conducted through the area and 15 significant coal deposits were discovered. Coal prices rose after the 1973 oil crisis leading to 40 government studies examining the viability of accessing the coal, given the 1,130 km (700 mi) to the nearest port and the mountainous barrier.