Fort Steele National Historic Site of Canada

Fort Steele, British Columbia
Some members of the Northwest Mounted Police detachment at Fort Steele, British Columbia, August 4, 1888 (© Library and Archives Canada | Bibliothèque et Archives Canada)
N.W. mounted police at Fort Steele, 1888
(© Library and Archives Canada | Bibliothèque et Archives Canada)
Address : 9851 BC-95, Fort Steele, British Columbia

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1925-05-15
Dates:
  • 1887 to 1887 (Construction)
  • 1888 to 1888 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • North-West Mounted Police  (Organization)
  • Superintendent Samuel B. “Sam” Steele  (Builder)
Other Name(s):
  • Fort Steele  (Designation Name)
  • Kootenay Post  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 2009-CED-SDC-067

Plaque(s)


Existing plaque: Fort Steele Heritage Town provincial heritage park 9851 BC-95, Fort Steele, British Columbia

A reserve on the St. Mary's River was laid out for the Kootenay Indians in 1884, but as the district's ranching potential became known investors pre-empted meadows traditionally used by the Indians. The Indians made counter claims and in 1887 British Columbia, fearing violence, requested North - West Mounted Police protection. In response, Inspector Sam Steele built the barracks known as Fort Steele here. The police presence led Chief Isadore to relinquish his claims and retire to the reserve. Within a year order had been imposed, leaving the area open for development, and the police post was abandoned. *Note: This designation has been identified for review. A review can be triggered for one of the following reasons - outdated language or terminology, absence of a significant layer of history, factual errors, controversial beliefs and behaviour, or significant new knowledge.

Description of Historic Place

Forte Steele National Historic Site of Canada, formerly known as Kootenay Post, is located in the town of Fort Steele, British Colombia. The fort, established in 1887 as the first North West Mounted Police post in British Colombia, was strategically located on a bluff overlooking the Kootenay River. There are no original buildings of Fort Steele remaining on the site. Official recognition refers to the square footprint of the original site of the fort in the town of Fort Steele.

Heritage Value

Fort Steele was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1925. It is designated because: built in 1887 by Superintendent “Sam” Steele, it was the first North West Mounted Police fort in British Columbia; the presence of this famous force secured peace and order in the country, leaving the area open for development.

Fort Steele was established during the summer of 1887 as the first North West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.) post in British Columbia by Superintendent Samuel B. “Sam” Steele. Originally called Kootenay Post, the fort was established when the detachment (‘D’ Division) of the N.W.M.P. was sent to the area to resolve a dispute between the local Ktunaxa tribe and European settlers. The presence of Sam Steele and the N.W.M.P. secured a peaceful solution and created order in the community, leaving the area open for development. By July 1888, the detachment had been sent on to Fort Macleod and Kootenay Post was abandoned. After Sam Steele left the region, the citizens of Galbraith’s Ferry renamed their town Fort Steele in appreciation of Steele’s work. By 1897, the town of Fort Steele had expanded to include the site of Kootenay Post.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1925; September 2009; Plaque Text, 1928; 1977.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements relating to the heritage value of the site include: its location on a flat parcel of land in the town of Fort Steele, in British Colombia; its setting on a high bluff overlooking the Kootenay River; its historical relationship with the adjacent Fort Steel Heritage Town operated by the Province of British Colombia; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent; viewscapes from the site across the Kootenay River to an open forested landscape.