At the time of European settlement, the Miami, a Native American tribe, inhabited the land that later became the Juanita Hults Environmental Learning Center. The area became government land with the signing of the Northwest Treaty and was sold to private owners to pay off debts to soldiers.

The first two private landowners were Jacob Noggle and Warner Mann, who divided the land in two equal parcels. Mann built a log cabin schoolhouse, which became the first property in the Niles Township school system in 1839.

In 1935, the land passed into possession of the Hults family, to Walter and Ethel Hults. In 1966, upon the death of Ethel Hults, the property was handed down to their daughter, Juanita Maley.

Juanita Hults Maley was a lover of nature, and in 1970, attended a conservation seminar conducted by Clyde Hibbs, founder of the Natural Resources department at Ball State. After that experience, she contacted the department and explained that she would be interested in donating her property for use in environmental education.

Her dream was for the whole area to return to its original natural state, while providing a venue for research and education concerning natural habitats and processes. When Juanita Hults Maley passed away in 1986, the land was willed to Ball State.