Among the recruits who marched west with
the F Troop in 1874 in search of the place where the Bow and Elbow Rivers met
were immigrants from Europe who brought the game of rugby with them from their
faraway homes. Rugby is known to have been played in Calgary as early as 1883.
This match was played at the NWMP barracks at Fort Calgary with the Deane House
in the background.
Meanwhile, the First Nations people were willing to give some of the new Canadian sporting events a try. However sometimes the game made no sense. For instance, when it came to football, why would you let another person attack you? In his book NWMP: The North West Mounted Police 1874 – 1885, Jack F. Dunn describes a rugby/football match that went awry: “One day at Fort Walsh, several Indians were invited to join a rugby match. The game took other dimensions, however, when a shoulder block by constable George Adams sent one Indian opponent flying. When the downed man got up and drew a knife, Adams “made for the fort”. ”
The Calgary Tigers were formed officially at a meeting on August 27, 1908. Practices were at 5.00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays where Riley Park is located now and the season would run from September until the end of October.
The first rugby/football uniforms were canvas pants and leather helmets. Pads were not used for playing or practice until the late 1920s. Sprains and broken bones were common. Concussions happened too, but they were not recognized as causing potentially serious and permanent damage to the brain we recognize today.
Imagine we could bundle up on a beautiful September night in 1908 and head down to Riley Park to watch the Calgary Tigers in action. What sort of game could we expect to see? Well, football at the time was English-style rugby … kicking, tackling, punting. Also, North Hill in the background with not a structure or a tree in sight!
Go Stamps Go! Graham Kelly
NWMP: The North West Mounted Police: 1873 – 1885 by Jack F. Dunn
Have you ever heard of the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act (FNSCORA)? Alberta began the new millennium by becoming the first province in Canada to pass legislation that stated the Alberta government’s collections of sacred Indigenous objects in the Glenbow and the Royal Alberta Museum needed to be restored to the communities they came from so they could return to ceremonial use. From the First Nations perspective these ceremonial objects were not objects at all but were living beings … beings who had been in captivity for a long time. You can read more about this important legislation here and here.
Gerald T. Conaty was the curator at the Glenbow Museum when this legislation was passed and he was responsible for the repatriation of many sacred beings to Siksika, Kainai and Piikani First Nations around southern Alberta during the 1990s. You can read more about this incredible Made in Alberta true story in We Are Coming Home, a book edited by Conaty, which explores the challenging history that museums have had with indigenous people and what he and others decided to do about it.
23 and 28 August of 1876: the British Crown signed an agreement with Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt.
Significant agreements in Treaty Six that don`t appear in any other treaty? A famine clause. Three years later the bison were gone, and there’s your famine. There is also a Medicine Chest Clause that is still disputed today.
Another significant outcome of this treaty…… some Cree Chiefs such as Big Bear and Poundmaker refused to sign it, setting the stage for the terrible confrontation between the Canadian Government and the Metis and First Nations people during the North West Rebellion.
“This is our land! It isn’t a piece of pemmican to be cut off and given in little pieces back to us. It is ours and we will take what we want.”
Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) refuses to sign Treaty Six, August 1876.
“We want none of the Queen’s presents! When we set a fox trap we scatter pieces of meat all around but when the fox gets into the trap we knock him on the head. We want no baits. Let your chiefs come to us like men and talk to us.”
Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) refuses to sign Treaty Six, August 1876.
Loyal Till Death: Indians and the North-West Rebellion by Bill Waiser and Blair Stonechild
On this date, 15 July 1854 – Cuthbert Grant died after being thrown from a horse.
Whilst Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont may be better known, many Metis in Canada and the United States trace their ancestry to Cuthbert Grant.
Grant was a farmer, the father of thirteen children, an employee of the North West Company and a commander in the Battle of Seven Oaks. You can read more about his life here.
This article describes a historic visit in 2012 by Sir James Grant of Scotland, also known as Lord Strathspey. The occasion formally acknowledged that Cuthbert Grant was a clan member, making his descendants an official sept (branch) of the Grant clan in Scotland.
That natural grass looks so right with that sky, doesn’t it? And then, to make it official, these guys appeared. They walked straight out of 1870 and regarded their European visitor with curiosity.
Sometimes a miracle is the surviving descendants of a genocide, grazing on their homeland, three legs in their own wild world, and one in mine.
Not so far away, I could hear cattle calling to each other. As a rancher’s daughter, this is a sound of peace and security for me. Last night, it only made the scene in front of me more unreal. Cattle seemed at once painted on to the harsh, beautiful, unforgiving landscape of the Great Plains, and so did I.
History may be healing and reversing itself (so might it be). Too late to go back, not to too late for trying.
Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the
End of the Old West
the great plains were inhabited by European fur traders, Metis settlements, Plains
First Nations people and millions of buffalo. By 1880, the landscape was unrecognizable
– the First Nations people were settled on reserves, settlers were beginning to
stream into western Canada, and the planning and construction of the great
spine of the railroad was underway. The North West Mounted Police had the
American whiskey traders on the run and were dealing with the delicate matter
of American refuges. Perhaps most significantly of all, the buffalo were gone.
This triggered the biggest ecological and humanitarian crisis that you’ve never
heard of, but the landscape was open for the settlers that the Canadian
government were depending on to make good on its investment in buying the North
West Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company.
This is a great read for the 152th anniversary of confederation and is vital knowledge for any Canadian. I had no idea that smallpox had played such a huge role in the shaping of western Canada. Did you know that the law in Canada often applied very differently in the eastern part of the country? Garrett Wilson breaks down the contracts the Canadian government signed with indigenous people, exploring differences between the individual treaties and the needs and motivations of the people signing them. The book reveals that the important decisions made by a removed and detached government in Ottawa were to have a profound effect on the relationship that Canada has today with Metis and First Nations people. And what really happened to the buffalo?
Thrilling, engaging, frustrating, with many moments of clarity along the way, of finally getting it – why things are the way they are. That was my experience of reading this book. It clocks in at 527 pages so let your friends know that you love them and bid them a fond farewell. Stock up on all the groceries you could possibly need for the next two weeks and tell your family not to interrupt you unless the house is on fire. Then climb into your time machine (I sat in a patio chair on my back porch with an iced coffee) and prepare to disappear into the magnificent world of western Canada in the 1870s, a journey not so much through space as through time.
June 25 and June 26, 1876: on these days in history, the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as “Custer’s Last Stand” was fought in Montana.
This event was to have significant consequences for the Canadian government, which was trying to negotiate treaties with the First Nations people in western Canada (Treaty Six was signed in 1876).
Among the headaches for the NWMP and the Canadian government: the Blackfoot had been approached by the Sioux, who requested their help in defeating the Americans. The Sioux promised in turn to help the Blackfoot drive out “The Red Coats”. The request was really a demand, promising retaliation against the Blackfoot if they did not participate.
Also, with in the year, 1,000 Sioux refugees would cross the border at Wood Mountain, requesting land and protection. The 1870s were a period of economic downturn in North America and the Canadian government was already looking to cut costs. They had no interest in adding to their expenditures, even if the humanitarian aid was desperately needed.
The presence of the Sioux would put pressure on the already dwindling Canadian bison herds and have implications for the Canadian government and the First Nations people of southern Alberta who depended on the bison for absolutely everything.
Who remembers the Rocky View Five Village Weekly or the Wheel and Deal? Gladys Taylor, the formidable writer and businesswoman behind those publications was born on 25 June 1917. She lived a remarkable and creative life, winning the Ryerson Fiction Award (twice!). Her book Alone in the Australian Outback was adapted into a movie starring Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis and you can catch the trailer here!
Deeper into France: So what happened the day after D Day? On June 7? And 8? 9? Whilst the D Day Landings on June 6 get the focus, landings on the coast of Normandy were ongoing and were often referred to in the notations as D+1 or D+2 (in other words, June 7 or 8).
The perception is that the first wave guys got the worst of it and it’s easy to forget about the risks taken in the ongoing push towards victory. Many don’t realize that beginning on June 7 more than 150 Canadian soldiers were captured and executed by the Hitler Youth under the command of the S.S., a total violation of the rules of war. Some men were sprayed with machine guns whilst others were shot in the back of the head with a pistol. A priest was bayoneted. The victims included Private Howard Angel, a father of four who was only thirty years old.
The commanding S.S. officer was Col. Kurt Meyer of the 12th Panzer Division. He was captured and sentenced (and incarcerated in Canada) but when it became apparent that his skills were needed during the Cold War, he was released in 1954.
When you are proudly told that Canadians were the only ones to meet our objectives on D Day this is super important and not just for bragging rights. That inland push was absolutely vital because German strategy was always to dig in and counterattack. As we were discussing the days after D Day on Twitter my friend @ElsbethMehrer made this comment:
“Love this thread. We were so taken by the cemetery at Beny-sur-mer and how far inland Canadians moved so quickly.”
Thank you so much for this comment, Elsbeth. Here’s a map showing Courseulles-sur-Mer (where Juno Beach is) and the place Elsbeth is talking about called Beny-sur-mer which is about six kilometres away. They have a Cimetière Canadien there too. The guys buried here died in the days and weeks after D Day.
Read more: Conduct Unbecoming by Howard Margolian.