9 July

N.W. Mounted Police expedition - a halt to cut hay

Mounties Police West

Many people would fail to identify the maple leaf or the beaver as a symbol of Canada, but most people would recognize a scarlet-coated member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The famous force was organized by an act of Parliament on May 20, 1873, under the name Royal Northwest Mounted Police. (The name was changed to Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920.) The force was assembled at New Fort Toronto, and by June 1874, it was ready to leave for the West. Men, horses, and equipment traveled by United States railway lines to Pembina, just south of the Manitoba border. On July 9, they began their march to the Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, and the Fort Whoop-Up country, now in the Calgary area.

They were greatly needed. Unscrupulous traders were bringing the proud Blackfoot Indians to a state of degeneration, taking their furs and guns in exchange for a potent drink called "Whoop-Up bug juice." This was made by mixing a quart of whisky, a pound of chewing tobacco, a handful of red pepper, a bottle of Jamaica ginger and a quart of molasses; the mixture was then diluted with water and heated to make "firewater."

There were terrible orgies and massacres among the Indians and the white traders. One of the worst was a battle at Cypress Hills, in May, 1873, between a party of "wolfers" and a tribe led by Chief Little Soldier. The "wolfers" were men who killed animals for their furs by spreading strychnine poison over the ground. They were hated by the Indians and the other white fur traders.

The battle was started when a "wolfer" accused Little Soldier's band of stealing his horse. Later it was found grazing on a hillside, having just strayed away. The "wolfers rushed the Indian camp, killed Little Soldier and cut off his head, which they mounted on a pole. They then murdered the squaws and their children. It was this type of situation that the Mounties had to keep under control.

When the force reached Roche-Percée late in July, it divided into two sections. One marched to Fort Edmonton which it reached on October 27, while the other set out for Fort Whoop-Up, which it reached on October 9, after a terrible journey.


9 July

-1706    Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville died at Havana, Cuba.

-1793    Upper Canada prohibited the importation of slaves.

-1811    David Thompson claimed the area at the junction of the Snake and Columbia Rivers for Britain.

              Fort Douglas on the Red River was sold to Robert Logan for £400.

-1843    Prince Albert, the first iron steamer built in Canada, was launched at Montreal.

-1852    A fire in the east end of Montreal destroyed 1,100 homes.

-1918    The second airmail flight was flown by Kathleen Stinson from Calgary to Edmonton.

-1944    British and Canadian troops launched an attack on Caen, which became important after the opening of the Second Front in Europe.