Fort Whoop-up or Many Ghosts?

Outside Lethbridge

Outside Lethbridge

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.


Fort Whoop Up - what it's all about - whiskey traders

Fort Whoop Up – whiskey traders

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.

Fort MacLeod - NWMP and the musical ride

Fort MacLeod – NWMP and the musical ride

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.

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

Forts in the West – Fort Whoop Up

Fort Whoop Up, located near present day Lethbridge, Alberta is a reason law and order in the west was needed.  Fort Whoop Up was a whiskey fort, run by scoundrels who had no conscience about who they hurt so long as they made money.  The Natives called this fort Many Ghosts which is a revealing title.

Fort Whoop Up - Murphy beside one of the cannons used for protection

Fort Whoop Up - View from fort - the train bridge Fort Whoop Up - wagon wheels propped against fort wall