The river gets its name from vegetable gardens kept by the Ojibwa people in this area. The Garden River First Nation Reserve is located in this area. The reserve was created as part of the Robinson-Huron treaty signed in 1850. The leader at Garden River at the time, Chief Shingwaukonce, also known as Shingwauk or "Little Pine", had an influence on the creation of this treaty. Shingwauk's vision of a "teaching wigwam" to provide education for native peoples was later distorted into the residential school program.