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The Royal North-West Mounted Police
Chapter I


A BIG PROBLEM FOR A YOUNG COUNTRY

The Necessity of Providing Protection for Life and Property in the Great West during the Progress of the Country's Exploration and Settlement—Some Notes on the Early History of Canada's Great North-West—-Colonel Robertson-Ross' Reconnaissance of 1872 and his Report.

IN 1872 the Dominion of Canada, as yet only five years old, was face to face with a momentous proposition.

How was the infant country, weak in population and financial resources, to provide for the exploration, opening up and settlement of the vast region of 2,300,000 square miles—-a continent in itself—acquired by the Dominion in virtue of "The Rupert's Land Act" passed by the Imperial Parliament in 1868?

The United States had had to pour out and was still pouring out, at that date, human life and money with a prodigal hand to open up the new territories to the South of the infant Dominion's recently acquired western Empire, and the end had not yet been accomplished (1). With her infinitely more restricted immediate resources in men and money Canada could not face the same expenditures.

The total revenue of the Dominion in 1872 was only $20,714,813.

At that very time the United States was spending at the rate of $20,000,000 a year upon its western Indians alone, and naturally enough similar complications with the Indians in the Canadian west as those which had occurred in the United States, drenching the camps and trails of the pioneer settlers with blood, and necessitating the frequent despatch of costly military expeditions, were feared even by those not usually timid. There were powerful and ferocious tribes of Indians in the new region—the Crees and Blackfeet for instance—it was well known, but just how many was a matter of dispute, for the knowledge of the new country was very meagre, based upon the unverified tales of the half-breed trapper and the fur trader. There was even great uncertainty as to the actual extent and main physical features of the country. There were great givers and lakes and considerable mountain ridges which had never even been heard of, and such great streams as the Saskatchewan, Bow, Qu'Appelle and Pelly Rivers were incorrectly sketched upon the crude maps.

Among so much that was uncertain as to the new region there was this much known positively:—The Dominion had undertaken to govern the Great North-West, and by a solemn covenant entered into with the Province of British Columbia, had pledged itself to lay down across the vast unexplored stretches of forest, prairie, flood and mountain, a railroad connecting the old British colonies on the Pacific coast- with the original provinces of Canada.

Up to 1806 Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, formerly called New Caledonia, were separate colonies, but in the year named they were united under the name of British Columbia. July 20, 1871 British Columbia became a province of the Dominion of Canada on the specific understanding that within two years work would be begun upon a railway to connect the province with eastern Canada. The very day that British Columbia entered Confederation, parties of engineers entrusted with the preliminary surveys for the new railway, left Victoria to work eastward, and others started from the Upper Ottawa to work westward.

It was obvious that to ensure the safe construction and operation of this trans-continental railway, no less than to provide for the security of the settlers who were already beginning to filter into the wilderness, some powerful and efficient instrument would have to be provided for the assertion of the national authority and the enforcement of the law.

Such an instrument was created in the North-West.

The British Government in 1857 despatched an exploring expedition under Captain Palliser to explore the vast unknown territory of British North America west of Lake Superior, with special instructions to attempt to locate a practicable horse route on British Territory for connecting Eastern Canada with British Columbia, The explorations of this expedition extended over four years, and although the quest for a trans-continental waggon trail, owing to the restrictive instructions issued, was unfruitful, the results were important, demonstrating that there was an immense land reserve in the western part of British North America, capable of being put to the use of man.

In 1859 the Edinburgh Review ridiculed the idea of forming the Red River and Saskatchewan country into a Crown Colony, denounced it in fact, as a wild and wicked notion, declaring that hailstones, Indians, frosts, early and late, want of wood and water, rocks, bogs, etc., made settlement impossible.

One has but to read Dr. Grant's interesting volume "Ocean to Ocean" to realize what absolute ignorance there was as to the Great North-West in 1872, not in what is generally regarded as the East merely, but in Manitoba as well. Thus the learned annalist speaks of meeting while at Fort Garry, and on the same day, Archbishop Tache. and Mr. Taylor, the United States Consul. He writes that to hear the Counsul and the Archbishop speak about the fertile belt was almost like hearing counsel for and against it. "The Consul believes that the world without the Saskatchewan would be but a poor affair; the Archbishop that the fertile belt must have been so called because it is not fertile."

Before proceeding with the relation of the facts connected with the organization of this splendid force and with its services to the country and the Empire, it is probably better, for the purpose of indicating the exact conditions prevailing in the North-West in 1873, the year the force was organized, to briefly trace the history of the country up to that time.

The original means of communication between the Great North-West and Europe was via Hudson Bay, and for a very long period that was the only trade route between our great west and Britain. The British flag, it might be remarked, was the first European ensign to fly over any part of that vast domain, and it held undisputed sway over the shores of Hudson Bay and the region to the south and west of it for many years before the last of the lily-emblazoned flags of France in the valley of the St. Lawrence was replaced by the Union Jack. English trading posts had been established on Hudson Bay and Straits, and English trading influences felt throughout a considerable portion of region which now forms part of the Dominion's North-West and North-East territories within forty years of the founding of Ville Marie (now Montreal) by de Maisonneuve. A keen conflict was for a number of years maintained between the French and the English for the possession of these remote territories, and the trading forts successively changed hands as fortune happened to favour the one or the other.

A British expedition, under Sebastian Cabot, in 1517 discovered Hudson Strait. In 1576-1577 Martin Frobisher made his voyages of discovery to the Arctic regions of Canada. In 1585 John Davis discovered Davis Straits, and the two following years visited the seas to the north of Canada. In 1610 Henry Hudson, in command of another English expedition, discovered and explored Hudson Bay and James Bay, and wintered on the shores of the latter. Hudson, being deserted there by his mutinous crew, another English expedition under Captain Thomas Britton proceeded to James Bay in 1612 to effect his relief, but failed. In 1613, two distinct English expeditions, one under Captain Fox, the other under Captain James, both, as had been the case with Hudson, despatched in quest of a north-west passage to the Far East, explored both Hudson Bay and James Bay. In 1670, King Charles II, of England, granted to Prince Rupert the charter to trade m and about Hudson Bay and Straits, in virtue of which the Hudson Bay Company was organized. A governor and establishment were sent out from England, and two forts or trading posts established. The main object of the company was to engage in the fur trade, but its charter authorized it to conduct explorations.

In 1672 the French Jesuit priest, Father Albanel, inspired by that zeal for the spread of the Gospel of Christ among the heathen Indians, which led so many devoted French priests, in that brave era, throughout daring trips of explorations, and in many cases, alas! to glorious martyrdom, performed the feat of making the passage overland from Montreal to Hudson Bay, and took formal possession of the land in the name of the King of France, although the English had already established themselves there.

If the officials of the Hudson Bay Company heard of the good priest's visit and patriotic act, it does not appear to have concerned them, for the year 1686 the company had no less than five trading posts in operation round the shores of Hudson and James Bays. They were designated the Albany, the Moose, the Rupert, the Nelson and the Seven Factories. In the year last named one of these English posts was overwhelmed with disaster. The activity of the English traders in the then far north-west was interfering with the fur trade of the St. Lawrence, and an expedition under Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, was organized in New France to proceed to Hudson Bay and destroy Moose Factory. The commission was thoroughly executed, and, in subsequent expeditions, between 1686 and 1697, d'Iberville captured five more posts of the company, and destroyed many of its vessels; but the Hudson Bay Company was not destroyed nor deterred from its purpose. In 1696 d'Iberville returned to France, and under the treaty of Ryswick, passed that year, there was a mutual restoration of places taken during the war. By the treaty of Utrecht, 1713, Hudson Bay and adjacent territory was definitely and finally ceded to Britain, fifty-seven years before the Laurentian colony of New France.

There was destined to be many years' dispute as to exactly what comprised the Hudson Bay territory, or Rupert's Land. The original charter comprised the country drained into Hudson Bay and Hudson Straits, but the company's voyageurs and trappers travelled over great areas to the west and south of those limits, and established forts or trading posts therein. Rival English fur traders disputed the monopoly of the company, even to the coast trade of Hudson and James Bays, but the Company generally succeeded in driving thorn out and destroying their establishments.

The French, too, with their wonderful genius for inland discovery, penetrated from the distant St. Lawrence settlements to the great prairie region to the south and west of Hudson Bay. In 1732, two Montreal traders, de la Verandrye and du Luth (after whom the city of Duluth is named), built a fort on the Lake of the Woods, and before the conquest of New France was completed, enterprising French pioneers had established trading posts on Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, Cedar Lake, and on the Saskatchewan.

For a time after the conquest, the French fur traders appear to have practically withdrawn from the vast region west of the great lakes, and the Hudson Bay Company enjoyed full possession of the far western fur trade. Then rival concerns returned to the big company's sphere of operations. The most important of these was the North-West Company, organized on a co-operative system at Montreal, 1783. Its promoters were Scotch and French, and as it was a Canadian company and operated over the same route as the former fur trade of New France, it attracted to its support the hardy voyageurs and "coureurs des bois" who had diverted so large a share of the western fur trade to the St. Lawrence route during the French regime. To them the Hudson Bay Company was an hereditary enemy, and they entered upon the work of opposition with great zeal. Rivalry of the keenest kind prevailed between the two companies, and pitched battles and bloodshed were the result. The Hudson Bay Company claimed the whole of the present northwest, including Manitoba, by reason of its charter and alleged prior occupation. The North-West Company, as a Canadian concern, on the other hand, claimed the right to trade in the prairie region on the ground that it had not only been discovered by parties sent out from Canada during the French regime, but had, up to the time of the conquest, been occupied by Canadian traders or their agents, and was consequently a part of the Canada of New France which was ceded to Britain by the Capitulation of Montreal, and not rightly a part of the Hudson Bay Territory.

In 1811 and 1812 the Earl of Selkirk, having acquired a controlling interest in the Hudson Bay Company, decided to form a settlement, and sent a number of settlers out from Scotland to locate upon lands on the Red River. This was the first serious attempt at settlement in what is now the great province of Manitoba. The North-West Company, whose employees up to this time had practically monopolized the trade of the Red River Valley, soon came into violent conflict with this settlement, and determined and dastardly measures were resorted to to accomplish the destruction of the settlements. Attempts to starve the settlers out by seizing their supplies en route from Hudson Bay failed, and so did efforts to arouse the Indians to accomplish the destruction of the settlement, and other efforts to bribe the settlers from their allegiance to the Hudson Bay Company. At length a party of North-West Company men entered Fort Douglas, the headquarters of the settlement, and carried off the guns and means of defence. This caused somewhat of a stampede among the settlers, and the raid upon the fort being in course of time succeeded by the arrest and transportation to Montreal of the Governor of the settlement, Miles Macdonell, the settlement was abandoned in June 1815, the year of Waterloo. Later in the same year, the main party of the Selkirk settlers, recruited by some new arrivals from Scotland, returned to the destroyed settlement and rebuilt their homes, fort and mill. The half-breed adherents of the North-West Company, who had been directly responsible for the previous disaster, again showing a disposition to create trouble, the Selkirk colonists suddenly fell upon their settlement and took their leader, Cameron, prisoner, releasing him, however, on the promise of good behaviour. June 19, 1816, the colony was again surprised and raided by the North-West Company's half-breeds. Twenty-one of the Hudson Bay Company officials and adherents were killed and one wounded in this affair. Again the afflicted colonists were forced to take shelter in the Hudson Bay forts to the north.

Meantime Lord Selkirk had arrived in Canada to endeavour to secure protection for his colony, but failed signally until he personally organized a military force. Upon the conclusion of the war of 1812—1814 with the United States, two Swiss auxiliary regiments in the British Service, the De Meuron and the Watteville regiments, were disbanded in Canada, and Selkirk engaged one hundred of their officers and men, clothed and armed them at his own expense, and with thirty canoe men started out via the great lakes for his settlement. It was June, 1817, before the expedition reached the site of the settlement, and the refugee settlers were recalled from Norway House on Lake Winnipeg. The Red River colony was re-established, but for many years longer had a painfully chequered existence.

The troubles in the great North-West became a subject of discussion in the British House of Commons and of Parliamentary investigation, and finally, by Parliamentary mediation, an union of the interests of the Hudson Bay Company and the North-west Company was accomplished, the united company taking the name of the Hudson Bay Company. The Government of the vast region now known as Manitoba and the North-West was vested in the company, whose officers were commissioned as justices of the peace. A special clause in the license granted to the reconstructed company, prohibited any interference with colonization.

The troubles of the Selkirk settlers were not yet over. From ignorance of the country the settlement nearly suffered extermination from floods and famines.

In 1835 the Hudson Bay Company purchased the rights of the Selkirk family to the Red River Colony, and a sort of government was set up by the Company with a council (Council of Assiniboia) comprised of its servants. The colonists had no voice in the selection of the members, and the Company's governor and his council made the laws, interpreted them, and enforced them. Before many years the British genius for representative government asserted itself, and the British and Canadian parliaments were petitioned by the settlers to make them equal participators in the rights and liberties enjoyed by British subjects elsewhere.

In 1857 this matter was discussed in the Canadian as well as the British Parliament, and the question of joining "Rupert's Land and the North-West Territory" to Canada made such progress that provision was made in the British North America Act anticipating the admission of the territory into Confederation. At the very first session of the Dominion Parliament the project took definite shape, and a series of resolutions were passed favouring the admission of the territories ruled by the Hudson Bay Company into Confederation. The Imperial Government having expressed its approval, negotiations were entered into with the Company, and in 1869, a formal deed of surrender of the territories was executed, the Dominion Government agreeing to pay 300,000 pounds sterling to the Company for the relinquishment of its monopoly and rights in the territory, the Company retaining its trading posts and one-twentieth of all the lands m the fertile belt. And so this vast territory, covering some 2,300,000 square miles became a part of the Dominion of Canada.

The transfer of the country was marked by the Riel uprising of 1869, due chiefly to the objection of the French half-breeds, who were generally hunters, to the anticipated opening of the country to settlement, on a system foreign to their practice; but due in some measure to intrigue by Fenian agitators and by citizens of the United States, who were desirous of seeing the Hudson Bay territory added to the Republic.

The Red River expeditions under Col. (now Lord) Wolseley, in 1870, effectively put a period to the uprising, and in 1870 the Red River settlement and adjacent territory was formed into the Province of Manitoba, the first legislature being elected the following January. Shortly afterwards an Executive Council was named to assist the Lieut.-Governor of Manitoba in administering the affairs of the territories beyond the limits of the new province.

The population of the Province of Manitoba in 1870 according to the census was 1,565 whites, 57S Indians, 5,757 French half-breeds and 1,083 English-speaking half-breeds.

Immediately after taking possession of Fort Garry n 1870 Colonel Wolseley called upon Mr. Donald A. Smith, now Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, to act as the administrator of the provincial government pending the arrival of the Lieutenant-Governor. Things were :n a very unsettled condition after the collapse of the inefficient Riel administration, and with many of the people of the settlement coming into the Fort, numerous acts of lawlessness were reported. To restore and maintain law and order, a mounted police force was organized under the command of Captain Vihiers of the Quebec Battalion of Rifles. The organization of this force is historically interesting as it was the first police force to be organized in western Canada.

The two provisional battalions of militia (rifles) which Wolseley took to Fort Garry in 1870 remained in the province for the winter, sufficient men being re-inlisted in the spring to form a small provisional battalion, which it was deemed wise to keep at Fort Garry as a Garrison after that. This battalion, in spite of the short terms of enlistment, was maintained in a very efficient state for several years, frequent drafts from Ontario and Quebec, and in 1873 from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, being sent to Manitoba to keep the ranks full. After the first year a battery of field artillery was incorporated in the battalion. This was the only military force maintained in the new west besides some companies of volunteer militia in Manitoba. The calls for special duty were quite numerous, upon one occasion a detachment marching across the prairie to Lake Qu'Appelle upon the occasion of the negotiation of an Indian Treaty, upon another to the Lake of the Woods. This permanent force was in command of Major Acheson G. Irvine, who had gone out with Wolseley's expedition as second in command of the Quebec Rifles, and who subsequently rose to the command of the North-West Mounted Police.

The necessity of maintaining this small force in the Red River settlement and the difficulty n forwarding drafts and supplies, had the result of hastening the work which the government undertook of improving the water and waggon route between Lake Superior and Fort Garry, and which from the. name of the engineer placed in charge, is so well known historically as "The Dawson Route."

Colonel Wolseley's force in 1870, in spite of the greatest efforts of officers and men, took nearly three months in covering the. distance between Thunder Bay (Prince Arthur's Landing) and Fort Garry. Thanks to the improvements effected in the route, the trip in 1872 could be done in three weeks.

In effecting this improvement, roads had been cut and graded by the engineers, stream and lake channels roughly cleared of logs, stumps and boulders; portages improved, steamers placed upon some of the longer water stretches, stations in the charge of responsible men established at the portages and other resting places, and so on. For the first forty-five miles from Lake Superior the route was entirely by land. Then succeeded a stretch of three hundred and eighty miles of lakes and rivers, and then another land stretch of one hundred and ten miles, or 530 miles in all. The completion of this route resulted in an appreciable influx of population.

In 1871 and 1872 attention was drawn in the Dominion parliament to evidences of restlessness among the Northwest Indians, and the advisability of taking effective means to deal with any possible uprising. The practice of the United States Indians, particularly the Sioux, of resorting for refuge to British territory, after their periodical uprisings and when hard pressed by the blue-coated armies sent against them, was considered a most disquieting factor, and anxiety, moreover, began to spread as a result of complaints made on behalf of various bands of Canadian Indians as to bad treatment by the officials of the government.

In the House of Commons March 31st, 1873, Dr. John Schultz, M.P., in presenting a motion for copies of correspondence relating to the dissatisfaction prevailing among the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West in 1871 drew attention to the fact that the. Imperial Proclamation of July 15th, 1870, which added 300,000 square miles to the area of the Dominion, pledged the country to the. care and protection of 8,000 Indians. He contrasted the state of peace prevailing m the new region with the state of war and bloodshed prevailing across the International frontier. But a spirit of restlessness was abroad among the Indians, and a more generous policy towards them on the part of the government was necessary.

Mr. Cunningham, Member for Marquette, who followed Dr. Schultz, attributed the restlessness and discontent among the Indians to the then recent transition in the government of the country. The Indian could not understand that Great Britain and Canada were identical. The Americans had a longing eye upon the North-West, and lost no opportunity of spreading discontent there. In fact, most of the trouble there was to be attributed to American highwines sold to the Indians by men calling themselves traders; and if Canada desired to retain possession of the country she would have to be prepared to spend money freely, and garrisons would have to be established and sustained throughout the Saskatchewan district.

The Hon. Joseph Howe took exception to these assertions. Did not the Hudson Bay Company, he asked, govern the country for years without the assistance of a single soldier, with the exception of one regiment for a short time when war with the United States was anticipated. If Canada could not hold the North-West without garrisons scattered all over the country, she could not hold it at all.


A Typical Group of North-West Indians in Gala Garb.
(From a photograph by Mr. McLaughlin, Chief Photographer of the Public Works Department).

They had 300 well-drilled men concentrated in the heart of the country ready to be dispatched to any part at any moment. It would be madness to divide them over the country until necessity required their presence at any particular point. There were 500 men employed on the boundary survey, and they were strong enough to protect themselves and render assistance to persons settled in the neighbourhood.

Sir John A. Macdonald, then Prime Minister of Canada remarked that it was the duty of the government to see that the frontier was protected, to see that there were no raids nor incursions or outrages by violent men from another country; and when settlement took place it would be their duty to see that a militia force was organized and that law was maintained. That country had only been Canada's two years. There were at the moment 300 as fine men as could be found in any military force m the world up there, who were sufficient to prevent any Indian war.

It was the intention of the government, however, during that very session, to ask the House for a moderate grant of money to organize a mounted police force, somewhat similar to the Irish mounted constabulary.

They would have the advantage of military discipline, would be armed in a simple but efficient way, would use the hardy horse of the country, and, by being police, would be a civil force, each member of which would be a police constable, and therefore a preventive officer. This force would be kept up to protect the frontier, to look after the customs and put down smuggling, and particularly the smuggling of ardent spirits, which tended to the utter demoralization of the Indian tribes. This force would also move in case of any threatened disturbance between Indian tribes or between Indian and white settlers.

The difficulty of settling the territory was enhanced, he was afraid, by the insidious advice of single traders crossing the line. They were under no restraint, morally or otherwise. They considered they had a right to cross the line, and defraud the Indian of his furs in exchange for spirits, arms, ammunition, and other ware; and they often induced the Indians to make unreasonable demands on the government; but by firmness—by letting the Indians understand they would have fair compensation, and no more, he believed these difficulties would be overcome.

Numerous reports, some based upon truth, others without any foundation in fact found their way into the papers about fierce tribal fights among the western Indians. For instance April 9, 1871, the following appeared in the Ottawa " Free Press ":—

Latest Saskatchewan advices bring intelligence of a fight between Cree and Blackfeet Indians, in which 70 of the former were killed at long range by breech loading rifles, before they were able; to come within fighting distance. The Crees were not aware that their hereditary foes had been furnished with so deadly a weapon. The rifles had been furnished by American traders. A pity this trade cannot be stopped. No one knows how soon these rifles may be turned against our own people.

About this time, all sorts of sensational stories began to gain currency in the United States as to the designs of American freebooters against the far western country. There were reports that imposing fortifications were being erected at strategical points, armed with artillery and manned with rapidly augmenting forces of western desperadoes of the worst class. These forts were represented as the centres of a large and prosperous traffic, particularly in bad whisky, and it was represented that the garrisons were not only fully determined, but quite prepared to resist, by force of arms, any attempt to assert the authority of the Canadian government in their neighbourhood.

Although the most sensational of these stories which reached the east were much exaggerated, there is no doubt that the incursions of illicit traders from across the lines in the far west country were fraught with much danger.

Dr. Grant ("Ocean to Ocean") records the fact that a few hours before the arrival of Sanford Fleming's party at Fort Carlton in 1872, Mr. Clark, the Hudson Bay agent, had received information by the then most direct, but really very round-about route, namely via Edmonton, that Yankee "Free Traders" from Pelly River had entered the country (now Southern Alberta), and were selling rum to the Indians in exchange for their horses. The worst consequences were feared, as when the Indians have no horses they cannot hunt. When they cannot hunt they are not ashamed to steal horses, and horse stealing in these days led to wars. The. Crees and Blackfeet had then been at peace for two or three years, (an unusually long period) but, if the peace was once broken, the old thirst for scalps would revive and the country be rendered insecure. Dr. Grant wrote that Mr. Clark spoke bitterly of the helplessness of the authorities, in consequence of having had no force from the outset to back up the proclamations that had been issued. Both traders and Indians, he said, were learning the dangerous lesson that the Queen's orders could be disregarded with impunity.

The members of Fleming's party comforted Mr. Clark with the assurance that Colonel Robertson-Ross, Adjutant General of the Canadian Militia was on his way up to repress all disorders and see what was necessary to be done for the future peace of the country.

Dr. Grant (p. 141 Ocean to Ocean) commented as follows on the position:—"Making allowances for the fears of those who see no protection for life or property within five hundred or a thousand miles from them, and for the exaggerated size to which rumors swell in a country of such magnificent distances, where there are no newspapers and no means of communication except expresses, it is clear that if the government wishes to avoid worrying, expensive, murderous difficulties with the Indians, something must be done. There must be law and order all over our North-West from the first. Three or four companies of fifty men each, like those now in Manitoba, would be sufficient for the purpose, if judiciously stationed. Ten times the number may be required if there is long delay. The country cannot afford repetitions of the Manitoba rebellion."

The government realizing that something had to be done in the direction indicated in the foregoing, the same year as this was written (1872) despatched Colonel P. Robertson-Ross, then occupying the dual position of Commanding Officer of the Militia of Canada and Adjutant General thereof, on what he described as "A Reconnaissance of the North-West Provinces and Indian Territories of the Dominion of Canada," the object being to obtain an expert report on the country.

As the report of Colonel Robertson-Ross describes the situation as it existed immediately before the organization of the North-West Mounted Police, and as it doubtless had an influence in determining the question of that organization there is no excuse needed for publishing the report fully. The Adjutant General wrote:— "On the termination of the annual training of the Militia in the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, I proceeded in the first instance, via Lake Superior and the "Dawson Route" to Manitoba, and in accordance with instructions, subsequently crossed the Continent through Canadian territory to the Pacific Coast and Vancouver Island, travelling nearly the whole distance from Fort Garry on horseback.

"Leaving Collingwood on the 9th July, in the steamboat for Thunder Bay, (Lake Superior), the vessel reached her destination early in the morning of the 22nd, stopping, en route, at the settlements of Owen Sound, Leith and Killarney, on the shores of Lake Huron, and at Gargantua Bay, Michipicoten Island and Neepigon, on Lake Superior.

"From most careful inquiries, it appears that the. number of Indians occupying the country along the line of the "Dawson Route," land who belong to the Objibbeway tribe, does not exceed a total population of four thousand, of whom it is believed about eight hundred are men capable of bearing arms. Although among these Indians there may be some restless characters, they are considered good Indians on the whole, and if kindly but firmly treated, they are not likely to cause any interruption along this route, or offer opposition to the peaceful settlement of the country.

"During the past summer, the Objibbeway tribe were apprehensive of an attack from the Sioux, their hereditary enemies, dwelling west of the Bed River on the American side of the International boundary line. With a view, therefore, of preserving the peace of the country, and of supporting our Indian commissioner when engaged in making treaties and for the protection of settlers, I am of opinion that it would be advisable to encamp a detachment of about one hundred (100) soldiers during the summer months at Fort Francis. This force could be taken from the Militia now on duty at Fort Garry, returning to that station for the winter months. To send an Indian commissioner unaccompanied by a military force to make a treaty with this tribe last summer proved a failure.

"I would further suggest that the employees of the Department of Public Works stationed along the line of the "Dawson Route," who will this summer number about 400 men, should be organized into a Naval Brigade, to be armed and equipped by the Militia Department; and that the offer to raise two Volunteer Companies of Militia at Prince Arthur's Landing, Thunder Bay, be accepted.

"The existence of such a material power along the line, would, I feel sure, prove of the greatest importance. There is no doubt that the passage of troops for the last three years proceeding to and from Fort Garry in support of the civil power, on mission of peace, has already been attended with the best results.

"I would further urge, if it be the intention of the government to retain any military force on duty in Manitoba, that one hundred men of the Provisional Battalion be supplied with horses and equipped as Mounted Riflemen, that an addition of one officer and 25 gunners from the School of Gunnery at Kingston be made to the Artillery detachment, and the Artillery supplied with four of the Horse Artillery guns recently obtained from England. Thus the force would form a small but effective Field Brigade, and its military power be greatly increased.

"With regard to the necessity for maintaining any Military Force at Fort Garry, no doubt whatever exists n my mind as to the propriety of doing so, in view of the presence of many bands of Indians, considering the primitive state of society in the Province, the strong political party feeling which exists, and the fact that on both sides of the International Boundary Line restless and reckless characters among both white men and Indians abound.

"It is undoubtedly very desirable to maintain a certain number of Police Constables in the Province under the civil power, some of whom should be mounted, but I feel satisfied that the great security for the preservation of good order, and the peace of the North-West Territories, under the changing state of affairs, will for some years, be found to lie in the existence and presence of a disciplined military body, under its own military rules, in addition to, but distinct from, any civil force which it may be thought proper to establish.

"Whatever feeling may be entertained toward Policemen, animosity is rarely, if ever, felt towards disciplined soldiers wearing Her Majesty's uniform, in any portion of the British Empire.

"In the event of serious disturbance, a Police Force, acting alone, and unsupported by a disciplined military body, would probably be overpowered, in a Province of mixed races, where every man is armed, while to maintain a military without any Civil Force is not desirable.

"I believe that a small number of Constables will be sufficient to maintain order in the Province, provided the Military Force is maintained; but, that, in the event of serious disturbance, a large Police Force would be unable to do so, should the military be withdrawn, and I consider the presence of a Military Force in the North-West Territories for some years to come, as indispensable in the interests of peace and settlement.


Soldiers and Policemen Too—A Full Dress Parade of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, 1901.

"During my inspection in the North-West I ascertained that some prejudice existed amongst the Indians against the colour of the uniform worn by the men of the Provisional Battalion—many of them had said "who are those soldiers at Red River wearing dark clothes? Our old brothers who formerly lived there (meaning H.M.S. 6th Regiment) wore red coats," adding, we know that the soldiers of our great mother wear red coats and are our friends."

"Having concluded the inspection of the Militia in Manitoba, accompanied by my son, a youth of 10 years of age, as travelling companion, I left Fort Garry on the 10th of August for the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia, with one guide only, and an Indian lad of the Saulteaux tribe, to cross the continent through Dominion territory to the Pacific coast.

"At the time of departure from Fort Garry, some doubt was expressed as to the propriety of so small a party travelling without a guard through Indian territory, and especially through the country of the Blackfeet tribe, if found necessary to do so; and I have to thank the Government very much for the Authority conveyed by your telegram to Fort Garry, to take with me, if desired, a personal escort of six soldiers from the battalion on duty in Manitoba.

"On full consideration, however, and with the advice of those best able to judge, I did not think it advisable to do so. A military escort of only six men would be inadequate to afford protection in case of any real danger from the Prairie Indians, and might possibly invite attack. Considerable additional expense, moreover, would have been entailed for their transport and subsistence.

"Proceeding from Fort Garry through the Swan River and Saskatchewan districts, via the Hudson's Bay Company's posts of Fort Ellice, Carlton, Pitt, Victoria, and Edmonton. I arrived at the Rocky Mountain House—about twelve hundred miles distance from Fort Garry—in 31 days, of which 25 days only were occupied in actual travel.

"The Hudson's Bay Company's Forts along the line of the North Saskatchewan at Carlton, Pitt, Victoria and Edmonton consist of wooden houses surrounded by stockades; these stockades are about 20 feet high with small bastions at the angles to afford Hanking defence. They are not formidable, but would be probably sufficient to afford protection from Indians.

"At Forts Carlton, Pitt and Victoria, accommodation for companies of soldiers, 50 strong, could be found in these Hudson's Bay Company's Forts, n addition to the present occupants, and at Fort Edmonton for about 125 soldiers.

"These Forts are conveniently enough situated for purposes of trade, but in a military point of view are badly placed, being in nearly every instance commanded from the rear by higher ground.

"On arrival at the "Rocky Mountain House," I learned that to cross the mountains into British Columbia by the "Vermilion Pass" with horses was impossible owing to the immense quantity of fallen timber caused by a great storm in the mountains last spring.

"An attempt to cross by this pass had been made by a party of Assiniboine Indians early m the summer without success.

"Under these circumstances it became necessary to undertake a journey of about 300 miles through the country of the Blackfeet Indians and to cross the mountains by the North Kootenay Pass.

"Although the Blackfeet may number altogether about 2,350 men, many of these are old, and some of them mere boys.

"It is not believed that they would bring into the field more than 1,000 or 1,100 men, if as many. They keep together by bands for mutual protection, in what is termed in military language standing camps; as many as 100 or 150 tents being pitched together, and their chiefs have control over the young men. Their war parties usually consist of only 50 or 60 men, and when on raiding expeditions against hostile tribes, they can make, with horses, extraordinary marches. With the Blackfeet, as with all the Indians in the Western Prairies, when at war, murder and assassination is considered honourable warfare.

"There are many fine looking men among the Blackfeet, Sioux, Plain Crees, and other tribes, and they have a bold and military bearing. Their active wiry figures, and keen glittering eyes, betoken high health and condition, and they can endure great hardships and fatigue; but on the whole, the Indians are not equal, in point of physical strength or appearance, to white men hardened by active exercise aim inured to labour.

"As a rule, the Prairie Indians are bold and skilful horsemen, but they are not very skilful with firearms. The Blackfeet and Plain Crees follow the Buffalo, subsisting entirely by the chase. They therefore require a great many horses and dogs for transport and hunting purposes.

"In the present year, peace having existed for the past two summers between the Crees and Blackfeet, and accompanied as 1 was by a guide well known, and related to the latter tribe, I did not think there was much danger in travelling through their country.

"There is always, however, great danger, if mistaken for an American citizen, and on approaching the International line, near the Porcupine Hills, of meeting with hostile bands of the Gros Ventres and Crow Indians, from the Territories of Dakota and Montana, U. S., who frequently cross into Dominion Territory on horse stealing expeditions, and who are not likely, if they fall in with travellers, to make distinctions.

"Although there may not at present be much risk in travelling through the Saskatchewan territory along the well known track followed for so many years by the Hudson's Bay Company, especially when associated with an employee of the Company, speaking the Indian language, it is a matter of doubt if such can long continue under the changing state of affairs, without the introduction of some Government, supported by material force.

"Beyond the Province of Manitoba westward to the Rocky Mountains, there is no kind of Government at present whatever, and no security for life or property beyond what people can do for themselves.

"The few white men there are in the Saskatchewan country, and at the H.B.C. Forts, frequently expressed to me their conviction that unless a military force is established in the country, serious danger is to be apprehended.

"The clergymen of all denominations whom I met with, expressed similar convictions; those at Forts Victoria and Edmonton, as representatives of the community urged me in the most impressive manner to lay their claims for the protection of themselves, their wives and families, before His Excellency the Governor-General of the Dominion, and the Government of their country.

"It appears that of late years no attempt has been made to assert the supremacy of the law, and the most serious crimes have been allowed to pass unpunished. Hardly a year has passed without several murders and other crimes of the most serious nature having been committed with impunity.

"During the present year, about three weeks before my arrival at Edmonton, a man by name Charles Gaudin, a French speaking half-breed cruelly murdered his wife at no great distance from the gate of the H.B. Company's Post. I was informed that the criminal might have been arrested, but that there was no power to act. This same man had previously most wantonly and cruelly mutilated an old Indian woman by severing the sinews of her arm so as to incapacitate her for work.

"At Edmonton there is a notorious murderer, a Cree Indian, called Ta-ha-kooch, who has committed several murders, and who should have been apprehended long ago. This man is to be seen walking openly about the Post. Many instances can be adduced of a similar kind, and as a natural result there is a wide-spread feeling of apprehension. The gentlemen in charge of the H.B.C. Post at Fort Pitt, as well as others elsewhere, assured me that of late the Indians have been overbearing in manner, and threatening at times. Indeed, the white men dwelling in the Saskatchewan are at this moment living by sufferance, as it were, entirely at the mercy of the Indians. They dare not venture to introduce cattle or stock into the country or cultivate the ground to any extent for fear of Indian spoliation.

"When at Edmonton and the Rocky Mountain House I was informed that a party of American smugglers and traders established a trading post at the junction of the Bow and the Pelly Rivers, about 30 miles due east from the Porcupine Hills, and about 60 miles on the Dominion side of the boundary line. This trading post they have named Fort Hamilton, after the mercantile firm of Hamilton, Healy & Company, of Fort Benton, Montana, U.S., from whom it is said they obtain supplies. It is believed that they number about 20 well armed men, under the command of a man called John Healy, a notorious character.

"Here it appears they have for some time carried on an extensive trade with the Blackfeet Indians, supplying them with rifles, revolvers, goods of various kinds, whiskey and other ardent spirits, in direct opposition to the laws both of the United States and the Dominion of Canada, and without paying any custom duties for the goods introduced into the latter country.

"The demoralization of the Indians, danger to the white inhabitants and injury resulting to the country from this illicit traffic is very great.

"It is stated upon good authority that during the year 1871 eighty-eight of the Blackfeet Indians were murdered in drunken brawls amongst themselves, produced by whiskey and other spirits supplied to them by those traders.

"Year after year these unscrupulous traders continue to plunder our Indians of their Buffalo robes and valuable furs by extortion and fraud, and the shameful traffic causes certain bloodshed amongst the Indian tribes.


Among the Tepees.

"At Fort Edmonton during the past summer whisky was openly sold to the Blackfeet and other Indians trading at the Post by some smugglers from the United States who derive large profits thereby, and on these traders being remonstrated with by the gentlemen in charge of the Hudson's Bay Post, they coolly replied that they knew very well that what they were doing was contrary to the laws of both countries, but as there was no force there to prevent, them, they would do just as they pleased.

"It is indispensable for the peace of the country and welfare of the Indians that this smuggling and illicit trade in spirits and firearms be no longer permitted.

"The establishment of a Custom House on the Belly River near the Porcupine Hill, with a military guard of about 150 soldiers is all that would be required to effect the object. Not only would the establishment of a military post here put a stop to this traffic, but it would also before long be the means of stopping the horse stealing expeditions carried on by hostile Indians from south of the line into Dominion Territory, which is the real cause of all the danger :n that part of the country, and the source of constant war among the Indian tribes.

Indeed it may now be said with truth, that to put a stop to horse-stealing and the sale of spirits to Indians is to put a stop altogether to Indian wars in the North-West. The importance of the Porcupine Hills as a strategical point of view is very great, commanding as it does the entrance on both the Kootenay Passes towards the west, and the route from Benton into the Saskatchewan territory on the south and east; the country can be seen from it for immense distances all round. Although hostile to citizens of the United States it .s believed that the Blackfeet Indians would gladly welcome any Dominion Military Force sent to protect them from the incursions of other tribes, and to stop the horse stealing which has for so long been earned on. With excellent judgement they have pointed out the southern end of the Porcupine Hill as the proper place for a Military Post.

"In order to satisfy myself on this point, I spent the greater portion of the 29th September in reconnoitring the ground recommended by them, and if it be the policy of Government to take steps to stop the illicit smuggling which is being carried on, at this part of the Dominion, there is every convenience for establishing a Custom House and Military Post. Timber of large size and good quality for building is close at hand, and the surrounding country is most fertile and favourable for settlement.

"The distance from Fort Edmonton to the Porcupine Hills is about six or seven days journey on horseback, and from the Kootenay Valley on the western side of the Rocky Mountains, from whence supplies could be easily obtained, about fifty or sixty miles.

"Frequent intercourse, and an active trade between the Kootenay District of British Columbia and the Saskatchewan country, would result from the settlement of a Custom House and Military Post at the Porcupine Hills. Many individuals are prepared to settle there, if any protection is afforded, and the Indian trade of the country at present tapped by United States smugglers, would remain with our own countrymen, There is a general belief prevalent, moreover, that valuable gold deposits are to be found near the Porcupine Hills. The unsettled state of the country hitherto has not admitted, however, of much prospecting. A party of four American miners, who crossed through the Kootenay Pass two or three years ago, were all killed by the Blackfeet, near the Porcupine Hills, the moment they entered the plain on the eastern side; since which time no attempt at prospecting for gold has been made in that part of the country.

"With regard to the measures which should be adopted for the settlement of the country, I feel satisfied that the introduction of a civil police force unsupported by any military into the Saskatchewan Territory would be a mistake, and that no time should be lost in establishing a chain of military posts from Manitoba, to the Rocky Mountains. The appointment of a Stipendiary Magistrate for the Saskatchewan, to reside at Edmonton and act as the Indian Commissioner is also a matter of the first importance. The individual to fill this important post, should be one, if possible, already known to. and in whom the Indians have confidence. I consider that it is very necessary to invite the co-operation of the Hudson's Bay Company in the adoption of any steps towards establishing law and order in the Saskatchewan for the first few years, and no Indian Commissioner should proceed unaccompanied by a military force.'

"A large military force is not required, but the presence of a certain force, I believe, will be found to be indispensable for the security of the country, to prevent bloodshed and preserve peace.

"The number of the Indians dwelling in the extensive country which lies between the Red River and the-Rocky Mountains on Dominion Territory, has been much exaggerated. It is very difficult to arrive at any accurate Indian census, but having made every enquiry during last summer on this point, whilst travelling through the country, from those most competent to judge, I doubt if there are more than four thousand Prairie Indians capable of bearing arms in the Dominion territory between Fort Garry and the Rocky Mountains, south of the Sub-Artie Forest, and north of the International Boundary Line,—the total Prairie Indian population amounting, perhaps, to 14,000 or 15,000.

"These Indians are scattered over such an immense extent of country, that anything like a formidable combination is impossible; most of the tribes, moreover, have been hostile to one another from time immemorial, It is believed that the Blackfeet and the Plain Crees, the two strongest tribes of prairie Indians, may have respectively about one thousand fighting men, but it is doubtful if either tribe could ever concentrate such a number, or if concentrated that they could long remain so from the difficulty of obtaining subsistence. Although many of the Blackfeet! have breech-loading riles, the Indians generally are poorly armed and badly mounted.

"Under these circumstances, it will be readily understood that comparatively small bodies of well armed and disciplined men, judiciously posted throughout the country, could easily maintain military supremacy. A body of fifty riflemen, armed with breech-loading rifles, is a formidable power on the Prairies.

"One regiment of mounted riflemen, 550 strong, including non-commissioned officers divided into companies of fifty would be a sufficient force to support the Government in establishing law and order in the Saskatchewan, preserving the peace of the North-West Territory, and affording protection to the Surveyors, Contractors, and Railway Laborers about to undertake the great work of constructing the Dominion Pacific Railway.

"Although the proposed military strength, and consequent expense, may appear somewhat considerable, I have been guided by every consideration of economy in recommending the above number. It is wiser policy and better economy to have one hundred soldiers too many, than one man too few; the great extent of the country, and detached nature of the service, must also be taken into account, and it should be borne in mind that the only thing the Indians really respect, and will bow to, is actual power.

"It should be borne in mind too, that in addition to the Indian element, there is a half-breed population of about 2,000 souls in the Saskatchewan, unaccustomed to the restraint of any government, mainly depending as yet upon the chase for subsistence, and requiring to be controlled nearly as much as the Indians.

"If it be in harmony, therefore, with the policy of the Government to do so, I would recommend the establishment, of Military Posts at the following places, strength as below:—

"At Portage de la Prairie, 50 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Ellice, 50 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Carlton, 50 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Pitt, 50 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Victoria, 50 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Edmonton, 100 Mounted Riflemen; Fort Porcupine Hills, 150 Mounted Riflemen. With a proportion of officers and non-commissioned officers.

"At the places indicated for Military Posts no great difficulty would be experienced, or expense incurred in hutting the men, they themselves performing the work, or an arrangement might be more easily made with the Hudson's Bay Company to provide barrack accommodation and rations at the different posts for the number of men required.

"I would further beg to suggest, if it be decided to establish any chain of military posts, that for the first year the soldiers be employed in laying down a telegraphic wire from Manitoba towards British Columbia, if not required to hut themselves.

"From my own knowledge and observation of the country, I think that if proper energy be used, the very desirable work of establishing telegraphic communications might be accomplished, without exacting too much from the soldiers, in one or two seasons. I would further observe that no time should be lost in making the preliminary arrangements. The men and horses should, if possible, be concentrated at Fort Garry in the month of May or June, their equipment forwarded sooner, and the companies despatched without delay."


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