Finding Friday – The Whiskey Traders

History in the Canadian West

A group called the Blackfoot Confederacy ruled southern Alberta and also parts of present day Montana.  Hostile and suspicious of the fur trading outsiders, unlike the Cree, they weren’t interested in welcoming the invaders.  Just as they didn’t welcome other tribes into their territory either.Fort Whoop Up - a badger lurks on the shelves

Indian Battle Field – is a monument  where a bloody battle between the Cree and the Blackfoot happened. History shows there was one way that the mighty Blackfoot nation could be defeated. Whiskey traders soon discovered there was a lucrative business selling booze to the Natives. Nick-named Fort Whoop Up  (Fort Hamilton) was one of the most infamous of whiskey forts in Southern Alberta. Fort Whoop Up - Murphy checks for attacks.

Between alcohol and smallpox – which often spread like wildfire – whole groups of Indians died and the Blackfoot Nation became a shell of their former self. The fort’s recipes for the alcohol were made of ingredients that are unbelievable to imagine – from shoe-polish  to turpentine. It was a sad time in our history. For a time there was no law, no one to stop the horrors happening. No wonder, Fort McLeod a little distance outside of present day Lethbridge was the first fort the Northwest Mounted Police (present day RCMP) established in the west.  Some of Canada’s worst atrocities against the natives were perpetuated here in Southern Alberta.Fort Whoop Up - what it's all about - whiskey traders

Finding Friday – Canadian West Beginnings

History in the Canadian West.

As a child I found the natives with their nomadic lives spoke to me clearly as a life of true freedom.  I realized when I got older that they too, followed rules, but it never seemed to be so many as we have now.  I grew up on a farm surrounded by four reservations in Northern Saskatchewan.  I went to school with, played with and had native friends.  I often feel that if we had integrated instead of making reservations Canada wouldn’t be having the problems they are now.  But that’s my opinion and it’s too late to change the past anyway.

Fort MacLeod - Buffalo

The Cree were the largest groups and occupied most of Saskatchewan and northern Alberta.  Like all other nomadic tribes, they roamed around, following buffalo herds.  In southern Alberta were a group of tribes – which we called the Blackfoot Confederacy.  They were the Niitsítapi (meaning “original people”).  Knowing no borders they roamed and ruled the area of southern Alberta and a large portion of Montana.

For a better understanding of lives long ago on the plains, I suggest visiting Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta.  It is an extensive, great interpretation of Native living and culture.

Today, Waterton/Glacier Park covers part of Montana and part of Alberta.  In 1932, the United States and Canada joined together to create the world’s first International Peace Park: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  Besides being proud of our two countries that created this, does anyone know of the influence the Blackfoot Confederacy had in its’ creation?

Fort MacLeod - Indian Head Dress