The falls were named by European explorer Samuel Hearne in 1771, after he supposedly witnessed the massacre of local Inuit by a group of Chipewyan travelling with his expedition. The Chipewyan leader was Matonabbee. However, some question the validity of this claim, as Oral Tradition research does not support this event. In later times the place was used as an important summer fishing site by the Copper Inuit. It was also a stop on the route to the interior, where the Inuit got copper and wood from the forests that begin 20 km upstream.
At Bloody Falls, archaeologists discovered traces of Inuit occupation dating to about 1500 CE. The area was also occupied previously by Palaeo-Inuit around 1300 BCE, and by Indigenous caribou hunters between roughly 500 BCE and 500 CE. For more than 3000 years, this place probably marked a zone of tension between First Nations and Inuit cultures.
Bloody Falls was declared a National Historic Site in 1978. The place is now part of Kugluk (Bloody Falls) Territorial Park in Nunavut. The Inuit still use it as a fishing camp.
See also Prehistory.