When the Europeans came to the island of La Gomera, during the first half of the XV century, the island was already inhabited by a group of people of Berber origin, which came from the Northwest of Africa. As with the rest of the archipelago, the economy and society of the first gomeros was fundamentally based on grazing. They also collected fruits and wild plants, complemented with products collected on the coast and some agricultural products. They lived in caves or in small huts and used wood and stone for the manufacture of utensils, as well as clay for pottery.
The aboriginal gomeros didn't live in the territory of the current National Park of Garajonay, but in lower levels. However, they walked through it and took advantage of it, getting essentially firewood. They also used it as a grazing area, mainly during the summer period. Some open spaces and planes, such as the Laguna Grande, were used to keep cattle. It was verified the existence of huts, surely used on a temporary basis in various locations: Roque de Ojila, Hoya Negrín, la Fortaleza de Cherelepín, etc.
Another element that links the old gomeros with Garajonay is the mystical or religious importance that some of their enclaves had, since they related the highest places, such as the Roque de Agando and Garajonay (where fossils of rituals were found) with their main god Orahan, probably associated with the Sun.
Since the mid-fifteenth century until the first third of the nineteenth century, La Gomera was subjected to a feudal regime, in which the holders of the manor were considered the owners of the lands and waters. Therefore, the population had a limited access to the forest during most of the history of the island, since the Counts of La Gomera established strict rules of use in order to obtain income and avoid the degradation of the forest. Finally, the manors were eventually abolished in the early nineteenth century.
Although it does not have a direct relationship with Garajonay, the passage of Christopher Columbus through La Gomera made a difference for the island, not only by uniting it to a historical fact of universal relevance, but also because, from that moment on, the island gained a strategic role in maritime traffic and international trade, like the rest of the archipelago. During these centuries, there was an economic boom that resulted in the use of the mountain as the main supplier of raw materials. One of the first resources that began to be exploited after the conquest was the wood and the firewood. This latter was of great importance well into the twentieth century, since it was the only source of fuel and heat. One of the most prominent uses of the wood was for the production of charcoal, which supplied La Gomera and, sometimes, was also sent to other islands.
At the end of the XV century starts the sugar cane industry. The sugar mills needed large quantities of firewood for their functioning. The mountains of La Gomera also became a source of firewood for the mills of Gran Canaria during the second half of the XVI century and the beginning of the XVII century. This exploitation started to reduce the length of the forested area. During the XVII century, the vineyards were extended, especially in the valleys of Agulo, Vallehermoso and Hermigua, which required large numbers of poles and pitchforks.
Throughout history, one of the main uses of the forests of La Gomera has naturally been the exploitation of wood for the manufacture of furniture and farm implements and for boat and house building. Among the most valued woods were the ones of palo blanco, viñátigo and, especially, barbusano, called Ébano de Canarias due to its dark colour. The misfortunes and famines suffered by the population in many occasions led them to use, for the manufacture of flour and, subsequently, edible cakes, the rizomas de helecho común or helechera (Pteridium aquilinum). This resource avoided migrations and even death by starvation in several periods of the history of La Gomera until well into the twentieth century. Continuing what the aborigines did in the past, the population used the mountain for grazing (pigs, cows, goats and sheep) in the interior of the forest. This activity was maintained until the forties of the last century and its impact on the understorey was significant. There is another surprising use of the hill that had some relevance during an extended period of the island's history: deer hunting. The date of its introduction is uncertain, but there is a record of the moment of its disappearance, since, apparently, the last deer that remained on the mountains was gunned down in 1863. The hunting of this animal was part of the manorial rights.
From the decades of the 50s and 60s, the pressure on the forests decreases, essentially due to the economic and social transformations that decrease the dependency of the population on the resources of primary activity.