This Week in History
The Mounties at Lower Fort Garry
|For the week of Monday November 2, 1998
On November 3, 1873, the first 150 North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) recruits were sworn in at Lower Fort Garry, Manitoba. The Force arrived here in October to be trained through the winter. In summer, they would make a long march into the North-West Territories, present-day Saskatchewan and Alberta, the first law officers in this vast region newly acquired by the Dominion of Canada.
The Territories of the 1870s were a troubled place. The aboriginal inhabitants of the prairies faced increasing competition for the diminishing animal resources. First Nations and Métis peoples feared that European settlers would push them out of their prairie homelands. The most disruptive force in the region was the American whisky trade, which sometimes led to violence. The federal cabinet of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald wanted to assert Canadian authority and stabilize the situation.
The Bill creating the NWMP received royal assent on May 23, 1873. In August, recruitment began for the first contingent of 150 men. Macdonald relied on the militia to organize the enlistment of men from the four eastern provinces. These men were mostly young and healthy. Some had been soldiers, but most came from farms and shops in the East. After an arduous journey west, they reached Lower Fort Garry on October 31 to face many months of learning new skills and disciplines so they could work together on the rugged plains.
Over the winter, a second group trained in Toronto. The two contingents met in June 1874 at Fort Dufferin on the Red River near the United States border. On July 8, a force of 275 under Commissioner George French began its famous march west, establishing posts along the way. From these little forts, the NWMP carried out the task of enforcing Canadian law.
For more information on Lower Fort Garry, visit the Parks Canada Web Page.
- Date Modified: