In several places, near both the eastern and western boundaries of the park, remains of prehistoric peoples have been found buried, mostly fragments of stone tools and weapons, with some pieces of pottery.
In the neolithic age, around 5,000 years ago, South Pacific islanders began moving to Taiwan. They were the ancestors of the Pingpu or plains aboriginal tribes, and of the Kaoshan or mountain aboriginal tribes of today. The mountain tribes include many distinct groups, with different languages and culture, all of Malayo-Polynesian type. Of the mountain tribes the Atayal and Saisiyat tribes probably came to Taiwan the earliest; they settled in northern and central Taiwan. They never lived up in the high mountains, but made their homes lower down: the Atayal at altitudes of 1,000-1,500 meters, the Saisiyat at 500-1,000 meters. They lived by hunting, fishing and farming. It is calculated that today there are some 18,000 Atayal and Saisiyat people living around the outside of Shei-Pa National Park. Though there are no settlements inside the park boundary, the aborigines have long been active in the high mountain areas, and have left their mark on the history of the park: e.g. many of the mountain trails have been traced back to trails the Atayal made for hunting or social contacts, and many places still have the old Atayal names, for instance Kailantekun Mountain and Mutelebu Mountain along the Shengling Trail, and Kalahei Mountain, one of the "Wuling Quadruple Mountains."
When the Japanese were in occupation of Taiwan, they produced a good deal of camphor oil, and, in order to fell and bring out the camphor wood they wanted, they gradually penetrated farther into the mountains. This often brought them into conflict with the local aborigines. To assure the safety of their people going in and out the Japanese, in what is now part of the Shei-Pa National Park territory, built a special road. There were police stations all along the road, and the aborigines, who were Atayal, were forced to move in and live there all together, under police control. This road was in the region of the Beikeng Creek and of the Madara Creek (both in the upper reaches of the Da-an River) and is now called the Beikeng Creek Historic Trail and the Luchang Lianling Historic Trail. Traces of the Japanese road and police stations can still be found hidden in the bushes and rough grass: only traces, but enough to remind us of the inescapable restrictions oppressing the life of the aborigines of those days.
The traditional lifestyle of the Atayal was in harmony with their natural surroundings, and they practised simple forms of conservation: their fishing nets had coarse mesh, so young fry were not caught, but could continue to grow and reproduce. Hunters avoided taking animals in the mating and breeding season. In recent years, as humans have become more numerous and interested in making money, many animals and plants both beautiful and valuable to man have been hunted, felled, and gathered almost to extinction. Today hunting, plant collecting, and related activities are forbidden inside the park.