Canadian History/The Whiskey Traders and the NWMP
During the 1870's there were many independent companies trading whiskey to the Native peoples of the southwest part of the North-West Territories. This led to widespread alcoholism among the Native peoples, which eventually caused poverty, disease, malnutrition, and death. In 1873, the Canadian government formed the North-West Mounted Police in an effort to reduce the use of alcohol as a trading currency. By 1874, the NWMP accomplished their task of removing the whiskey traders from Canada, forcing them to flee across the border to the United States.
The Arrival of the Whiskey Traders
Aboriginals of North-West Canada were eager to trade their furs for European tools, food, and weaponry. Trading between Native peoples and the Europeans became a large part of the history of Canada and the exploration and settlement of the country.
In the mid-1800's, American fur traders began to introduce Native peoples to liquor, which had a devastating effect on their way of life. The whiskey traders traded strong, cheap liquor to the Natives, and it benefited the traders greatly, allowing them to make better deals on trade. However, it caused malnutrition, poverty, and disease among the Natives.
Many forts, such as the infamous Fort Whoop-Up, were established around the southern Canadian plains, and the traders began to illegally trade whiskey to Native peoples. The Canadian government formed the North-West Mounted Police in an effort to prevent the use of whiskey in trading with Natives.
The Formation of the NWMP
In 1873, the North-West Mounted Police were formed to protect the Native peoples from the whiskey traders.
On July 8th, 1874, 300 men marched west from Fort Garry, Manitoba. They endured hard times in the western lands of Canada, as they were low on equipment and supplied with incorrect maps. Low on supplies, Commissioner George French and Assistant Commissioner James Macleod reached Fort Benton, and visited the fort to stock up on supplies. While visiting the fort, they were also introduced to Jerry Potts, whom they hired as a guide.
With guidance from Potts, the group reached Fort Whoop-Up, which was searched and found to have no alcohol. After leaving the fort, they traveled further west, and established a permanent fort, Fort Macleod, on the Oldman River.