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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 21

The First Contingent:
The North-West Mounted Police, 1873-74

by Philip Goldring


The North-West Mounted Police force was created in 1873 to provide a buffer between the native population of the plains and the incoming settlers from Ontario and elsewhere. Its earliest efforts were to be directed against American-based whisky traders, whose operations in Canada's remote unsettled lands were threatening the welfare of the natives and mocking the Dominion's sovereignty over lands it could not police. The first administrative headquarters of the North-West Mounted Police was Lower Fort Garry, a Hudson's Bay Company post of declining commercial importance in Manitoba. There the first contingent of 150 men received basic training and the weaknesses caused by hasty recruitment of inexperienced men were ironed out over the winter of 1873-74. At Lower Fort Garry plans were made to outfit the force for its long march to the foothills of the Rockies. In June 1874 the first contingent moved south to join at Fort Dufferin, Manitoba, the second contingent, which had been trained in Toronto.


This work has profitted from the help and advice of the staffs of the Public Records Division, Public Archives of Canada, and of the Provincial Archives of Manitoba. Grateful acknowledgement is made to the Hudson's Bay Company for permission to quote from documents in their archives. Mr. S.W. Horrall, official historian of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, gave valuable assistance at several stages of the project of which this report forms a part. Responsibility of interpretations and for possible shortcomings remains, as usual, with the author.

Submitted for publication 1972, by Philip Goldring, National Historic Parks and Site Branch, Ottawa.

Originally published in
Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 21
©Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1979

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