Fort Whoop-Up

In 2002 I visited the reconstructed Fort Whoop-Up in Lethbridge, Canada. The original fort site is now on private land. The trading post was actually named Fort Hamilton, but it was commonly referred to as Fort Whoop-Up.  It was established in 1869 by I.G. Baker Company of Fort Benton, Montana Territory to engage in the buffalo robe trade with the Indians. Since the forts were in Canada they could trade whiskey to the Indians for furs, and the fort was one of a string of such whiskey forts.

The liquor was highly prized by the Indians, even though the “whiskey” was an adulterated concoction of deadly rot-gut, which led to violence among the Indians themselves. It has been said that the Blackfeet Indians might have wiped themselves out if the Canadian government had not established the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873 expressly to put an end to the whiskey trade with the Indians, which they did. Eventually the NWMP became the Royal  Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

 

The fort puts on a skit supposedly between a Mountie and a trader, though the latter fellow was dressed more like a cowboy than a fur trader.  At the end of the skit the trader rushed out the door and the Mountie fired a blank at him. The shot was unexpected and many in the audience yelped; the shot was very loud.

 

This is my photo of the inside of the trading rooms. In the far room you can see the window through which the traders accepted furs and handed out dry goods and whiskey in return.

I get a kick out of this picture because in 2006 Parks Canada asked if they could use the picture on their This Week in History web site focused on Fort Whoop-Up. Parks Canada is the Canadian government agency that administers Canada’s national parks and historic sites, of which Fort Whoop-Up is one. I have a sub-page on Fort Whoop-Up on my Old West site. Parks Canada found a better photo to use from my web site than they could get from the Fort Whoop-Up Historic Site itself! Ah, the power and benefit of the Web.

Here’s a link to the appropriate This Week in History page:
http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/cseh-twih/archives2_E.asp?id=521

And here is a link to the Fort Whoop-Up National Historic Site:
http://fortwhoopup.ca/