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Site Profile: Fort Whoop-Up

Fur trading room, Fort Whoop-Up

Located at the confluence of the Oldman and St. Mary rivers, near present day Lethbridge is the site where, in 1869, was constructed the earliest and most notorious of the so-called "whisky forts", Fort Whoop-Up. Established by John Healy and Alfred Hamilton for the sole purpose of gaining a quick profit through the illicit trade of liquor with the native people of the unprotected southern prairies of western Canada. The first fort built on the site, Fort Hamilton, was actually destroyed and burned by the Blackfoot in the area at what is hailed as the last great Indian battle fought in North America, but in 1870 a second fort, Fort Whoop-Up, was built to take its place. From 1869-1874 traders dealing in contraband liquor and firearms so demoralized the First Nations that violence and disorder resulted. Fearing further chaos and the encroachment of Americans and their philosophy of Manifest Destiny onto Canadian soil in 1873 the federal government assembled a police force, the North West Mounted Police (predecessors of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), who travelled west from Manitoba for the sole purpose of restoring order and keeping the peace on the western Canadian plains. Shortly after their arrival in the area, Fort Whoop-Up and other whisky posts like it were abandoned. After 1875 members of the North West Mounted Police force in the area used Fort Whoop-Up as an outpost. The last vestiges of the original Fort were lost to a flood in 1915, however visitors can now wander around a replica of the fort, including the police barracks, bunkhouse, livery, kitchen, trade room, Indian room, bastions, corral and garden, all reconstructed in 1967.

the kitchen at Fort Whoop-UpInterior view of Fort Whoop-UpTrade room at Fort Whoop-UpNWMP Headquarters at Fort Whoop

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