The Calgary area was once inhabited by pre-Clovis people whose presence has been traced back at least 11,000 years. When the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the area in 1883, and a rail station was constructed, Calgary began to grow into an important commercial and agricultural centre.Between 1896 and 1914 settlers from all over the world poured into the area in response to the offer of free "homestead" land. Agriculture and ranching became key components of the local economy, shaping the future of Calgary for years to come.
Between 2001 and 2006, Calgary's population grew by 12.4%. During the same time period, the population of Alberta increased by 10.6%, while that of Canada grew by 5.4% As of 2006, nearly one in four people in Calgary belonged to a visible minority group (22.2%). Of the largest Canadian cities, Calgary ranked third in proportion of visible minorities, behind Toronto and Vancouver. Among the immigrants arriving in Calgary between 2001 and 2006, 78% belonged to a visible minority group. The largest group was Chinese (6.2%) while South Asians (mainly from India or Pakistan) made up the second largest group (5.4%). There were more than 200 different ethnic origins in Calgary, the most frequently reported were English, Scottish, Canadian, German and Irish.