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Saskatchewan River: Unwild West

Mounties keep order on the Prairies

More on the Saskatchewan River:
Saskatchewan River:
From glaciers to grasslands

Early Bird:
Beaked dinosaur is missing link to birds

Dry Bones:
Dinosours abound in Alberta’s badlands

Plains Speaking:
Pioneer in the fight for women’s rights

Last Stand:
The Northwest Rebellions ends Métis autonomy

End of Steel:
Canada's northernmost metropolis

Dirty Thirties:
Prairie life in the era of the Bennett Buggy

Unwild West:
Mounties keep order on the Prairies

Dream of Wheat:
Prosperous farmers feed the world

Wonder City:
Saskatoon sprouts from the Prairie

The first fear of the young government of Canada was that it would lose control of the newly-acquired West. The anger of aboriginal and Métis leaders, and the call by many American politicians for a military takeover of the Canadian West, led the government to create a federal police force organized in military style.

The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) was created in 1873 with all the trappings of a cavalry regiment: horses, lances, carbines, and even a few artillery guns. Its uniform scarlet tunic and blue trousers were chosen to impress aboriginal leaders whose own ceremonial dress was colourful and dramatic.

The first job of the NWMP was to stop American whisky traders from selling liquor to the Blackfoot of southern Alberta. This action earned the respect and co-operation of their leader, Chief Crowfoot.

Meanwhile, just to the south, the cavalry of the United States Army attacked Native American tribes in a determined effort to eliminate as many of them as possible. The American attempt to destroy Native Americans helped Canada to secure the military support of aboriginal groups against the threat of invasion.

Gradually, the number of officers and posts throughout the West increased. In the early years, establishing close relations with aboriginal groups remained the main goal of the NWMP. The force actually warned the federal government that it should act to avoid rebellion brewing in the Northwest in 1885, but the warnings were ignored.

In 1920, the NWMP became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Since that time, the “Mounties” have endured as a symbol of deep, national pride. Recently, many Canadians expressed regret when the Mounties sold commercial rights to their image to the Walt Disney Corporation of the United States.

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