Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Now standing like an island of trees in the middle of the prairie, the Cypress Hills were once surrounded by ice. Somehow exempted from the coverage of the advancing glaciers, they remain today the location of the highest point of land between the Rockies and Labrador.

Cattle graze by the road in the Cypress Hills
It's a peaceful and beautiful landscape today, but in 1873, the Cypress Hills was the site of a grisly massacre: white traders slaughtered an entire encampment of Assiniboines. The time in history was troubled, the situation complex. Near starvation after the slaughter of buffalo herds, groups of Metis and Assiniboine people were camped in the hills.

Drunken American wolf hunters and whiskey traders from Fort Benton made incursions across the "Medicine Line" and got into an altercation with the native people.

Several men were responsible for the slaughter. Three Canadians were later tried in Winnipeg for murder, but all were acquitted.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the government tried unsuccessfully to extradite the others from the US and they were never even tried for their ghastly drunken killing spree. 
The Cypress Hills straddle southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The men who carried out the Cypress Hills Massacre were never punished, but this event proved a crucial factor that confirmed the need of a Canadian police force in the west. The following year, the NWMP set out on their long march on horseback (there was no railroad yet) from Winnipeg to the Oldman River. There they built their first post on an island and tackled the problem of the whiskey trade at Fort Whoop Up.

Later, the Mounties established the post of Fort Walsh in the Hills, now a National Historic site.

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