Fort Walsh National Historic Park
Fort Walsh was one of the most important posts set up by the North West Mounted Police in western Canada in the 19th c. It was built in 1875 under the leadership of James Walsh in order to put an end to the illegal whisky trade, and was in use for eight years. During that time the troops fought for law and order and negotiated with the whisky traders, the native Indians and the thousands of Sioux warriors who sought refuge in Canada after clashes with the U.S. cavalry. Following the building of the railway and the return of the Sioux people to the USA the fort was dismantled and left. For many years after that the area was used privately for cattle-rearing. In 1942 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police acquired the land and built a ranch on which to breed horses for the army. When the RCMP were transferred to Ontario the estate became a National Park. Since then extensive historical and archaeological research has been carried out, being the first stage in a comprehensive reconstruction program for the fort. This reconstruction, which will include the still existing ranch buildings, will give an idea of what Fort Walsh looked like during its heyday in 1880.The first thing to do on arriving in the park is to call at the Visitor Reception Center. Here in the large gallery an exhibition illustrates the highlights of the region's rich history, such as the Mounted Police, the people of the plains, the fur and whisky traders, government expeditions and the town of Fort Walsh.The fort buildings are made of whitewashed tree-trunks, one with a roof of turfs, the others with pointed roofs to keep out the damp.In 1877 an important meeting was held in the officers' mess, attended by Chief Sitting Bull and other Sioux chiefs as well as representatives of an American commission. The aim was to persuade the Sioux to return to the USA.Other buildings of interest are the police commissioner's house, the smithy, a carpenter's shop, stables, the guard-room as well as arms and goods stores.Near the fort lies the North West Mounted Police and civilian cemetery.Some 3 km / 2 mi further south will be found Salomon's Post (not open to visitors) and Farewell's Trading Post furnished with items used by the American traders who crossed the border and sold whisky illegally to the Indians. In the 1870s rifles and furs were the most important commodity. The present-day posts are reconstructions built on the site of the original buildings which were burnt down in 1873.Farewell's Trading Post consists of four buildings, namely, the shop containing brightly-colored clothing, pearls, furs, blankets and canned goods, the barrack dormitories, Farewell's house and that of his assistant.Near Fort Walsh a flourishing town grew up, which in its heyday had several hundred inhabitants. Embankments and cellars are all that remain.