In the south, near the border, in a bleak setting of dry, prairie grasses and high winds, a few men discovered a way to make money. It was a dangerous mission, not for the faint of heart.
Moving north in search of gold, prospectors from Montana realized there are different ways to make money. They set up a fort, a Whiskey Trading Fort, Fort Whoop-up, in the hills of present day Lethbridge, Alberta. But the Blackfoot Nation was a powerful nation who didn’t like settlers on their lands. It was truly ‘No Man’s Land’, and with no one to stop them once they assured the natives they weren’t interested in destroying the land, men from Fort Benton, in Montana, started a lucrative trade with the Blackfoot. In return for furs, the natives were highly encouraged to exchange for booze, many succumbed.
Finally in 1874 Canada’s Eastern Government sent out a group of soldiers to bring law and order. The Northwest Mounted Police (now the RCMP) set up their first fort in Fort MacLeod, a short distance from Fort Whoop up.
In the east, the government watched the lawless west unfold and thought of ways to stop the chaos. Fort Whoop-Up threatened the stability of the western plains, and the growing American presence worried Canada’s government.
For many natives especially, it was too late. By now some avoided Fort Whoop-up, calling it Many Ghosts, for all the natives who perished there. Whiskey and repeating rifles were a dangerous combination. Smallpox and whiskey decimated the population, and the repeating rifles rained death on hundreds of Cree and their allies at the great “Battle of the Belly River,” yards away from Fort Whoop-Up.
I have written a historical in rough called ‘Moonbeam’, about a Metis girl (mixed blood) caught in the trap of troubles plaguing the area at this time. I hope to have it polished and edited soon.