In 1865, the area north of Montana was known as Whoop-Up country. In Montana, trading whiskey to the Natives was illegal. Since White traders could make good money by trading whiskey, they headed north from Montana, out into the freedom of Whoop-Up country.
But when Natives traded for whiskey, their drinking often led to violence. As the Natives struggled with whiskey, they quarreled with the men who traded it to them. The whiskey traders of Whoop-Up Country built forts for protection. The forts were given colorful names like Slide-out, Standoff, Whiskey Gap, Fort Whoop-Up, and Robber's Roost.
Some White men became known as Wolfers because they killed wolves by putting poison on dead buffalo. When the wolves ate the buffalo meat, they died. The Wolfers then skinned the wolves and used the skins for trade. The wolfers also had to build forts to protect themselves.
Violence in Montana:
The Cypress Hills Massacre:
In June of 1873, a group of Wolfers had their horses stolen by some Cree. After one of the whiskey traders claimed he saw his stolen horse near the Native camp, a group went out of the trading post with plans to harass the Natives. They stood in a well protected breast-high coulee which gave a clear view of the Natives. Many of these men were hardened ex-soldiers who believed that killing Natives was justified. At some point shots were fired. Twenty-two Natives died.
Now there was an even greater need for the police force.
The Mounted Police March West:
Thousands of men from a variety of jobs volunteered for the North West Mounted Police. They were looking for excitement and adventure in the "Wild West." They underwent difficult military style training to make them fit and to teach them how to ride and shoot. Only 300 were selected to go.
As they marched west, they faced an uncertain future. Hundreds of whiskey traders and wolfers might choose to do battle with them, or they might be attacked by thousands of Natives. In the United States, the army had to be used to fight wars against the Natives. Only 300 Mounties were marching west.
In the book The Law Maraches West, written by a Captain with the Mounties, Sir Cecil E. Denny writes that, "The horses, purchased in Toronto, were exceptionally good. They were all over 15 1/2 hands, and were admitted to be the best ever shipped from that city." But during the journey, Denny notes that the horses were "unaccustomed to grazing or looking out for themselves, could not stand up under the hardships. After leaving the Pembina River both men and horses suffered through lack of good water."
Denny also notes that the men deserved a lot of praise. They "worked well and cheerfully under most trying and unfamiliar conditions." He then states that the first death occurred on August 6th to a man of ‘E’ troop who died from fever brought on by wet and exposure, and adds that "This event cast a gloom over the force."
Denny describes the rest of the march:
On 21st August we met the first party of half-breed hunters, who had been out from Winnipeg all summer hunting buffalo. Their carts were loaded with pemmican and buffalo robes. They reported no feed between us and the Cypress Hills, buffalo in great numbers having eaten off all the grass.
Provisions were growing short, and but for the buffalo we should have been in a bad way. We killed the first buffalo on 1st September. From this point on we had no dearth of fresh meat. The farther west we travelled, the more plentiful became the buffalo. There were places where, as far as the eye could reach, untold thousands were in sight, the country black with them. They had eaten the grass short, making feed very scarce; the lakes were fouled by them. These immense bands were moving north, and there seemed no end to them. . . .
On September 15th, they left for the Sweetgrass Hills in a snow storm. During this trip, the weather remained cold with occasional storms. Many horses were giving out due to lack of feed. On the September 18th, they reached the foot of the Sweetgrass Hills where they stopped and pitched their tents. This is where they waited while Colonel Mcleod went to Fort Benton in the United States, to arrange for supplies and to hire a guide.
The Mounties Arrive:
The Mounted Police hired a 37 year old scout and interpreter named Jerry Potts. Potts, who was part Blood and part Scottish, rode at the front as they headed for Fort Whoop-Up.
When Potts found out that whiskey was being sold at Pine Coulee, he guided the Police to the Coulee where they arrested five men.
The End of the Canadian Wild West:
The United States agreed to help the Canadian police catch the Whites that were involved in the Cypress Hills Massacre. Two mounties travelled into the United States, and with the help of U.S. marshalls, were able to arrest seven. Out of the 16 White men who took part in the Cypress Hills Massacre, the Mounties were only able to bring three before the courts.
So with the arrival of the Mounties came law and order. Instead of battles and bloodshed, the Mounties found peace in the Canadian West