June 1, 1873: on this day the Cypress Hills Massacre occurred. A party of drunken American wolfers (men who were paid to travel around southern Alberta poisoning wolves, and the absolute lowest on the scale of social order) decided to attack a camp of Assiniboine First Nations people whom they (incorrectly, it turned out) accused of stealing horses. A man called George Hammond led the attack, saying, “Let’s go clean out the camp.”
The attack only killed a few Assiniboine warriors. The rest of those murdered were women and children. Some of the women were taken prisoner and sexually assaulted. This horrible event finally forced the Canadian government to turn its attention to a situation that had gotten increasingly out of hand in its new domain of the North West Territories and inspired the creation of the N.W.M.P.
Two murder trials were held, one in the United States and one in Canada. Ultimately, no one was convicted, with the philosophical position of both juries seemingly, “What is the problem here? All they did was kill a bunch of Indians.”
What an interesting start we got off to, huh? Many of the conditions we have in western Canada, with ongoing resentment at the federal government when it is slow to respond to a crisis were present from day one, with First Nations being the lowest priority of all.
Read more: Firewater by Hugh Dempsey, The North-West Mounted Police: 1873-1885 by Jack F. Dunn or Frontier Farewell: the 1870s and the End of the Old West by Garrett Wilson.