North West Mounted Police Trail
In 1957, in addition to being the first president of the SHFS, Everett Baker, also acted as the convener of Historic Sites and Trails. In this latter role, Baker sought to mark the trail used by the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in conducting their business between two of their main Western posts, Wood Mountain and Fort Walsh. Members of the NWMP traversed this route on horseback from 1875 until 1912. The trail allowed easy transportation of supplies, troops and dispatches between Fort Walsh and its outpost at Wood Mountain.
Fort Walsh was established by the NWMP in 1875 to maintain peace in the Cypress Hills region and to express Canada’s sovereignty over its newly acquired North West Territory. Following the Battle of The Little Bighorn in Montana Territory, in 1876, Sitting Bull and approximately 5,000 Lakota sought refuge in Canada’s Wood Mountain region. As a result, Fort Walsh was made headquarters of the NWMP, and a former Boundary Commission depot at Wood Mountain became an important outpost of Fort Walsh. Superintendent James Morrow Walsh and the NWMP at Fort Walsh and Wood Mountain were charged with maintaining peaceful relations with the Lakota people.
In 1959, SHFS marked the route along the path originally used by the Assiniboine, Cree, Gros Ventres, and Blackfoot, and later by the Métis fur traders, commemorating NWMP’s patrols. In 1961, Baker sought to determine the exact location of the trail, garner donations and finally erect 260 white concrete posts. Each post is topped with a metal marker that pointed to the direction of the trail in both directions. The first post was erected at the edge of the parade grounds at Fort Walsh National Heritage Site, and the last post stands at the current picnic area of the Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park. The trail was completed in 1964.
The most time-consuming portion of the project was researching the main routes travelled and checking these maps against old-timers’ memories. Some of the prime researchers were Rube Freel, Freddy Parsonage, Boyd Anderson and Russell Flynn.Baker was able to collect $10,000 from individuals, Wheat Pool communities, community clubs, Rural Municipalities, villages and the Province, to fund the project.
Over the years the markers have deteriorated, although some local residents have quite admirably maintained the posts located on their properties.The Board of Directors of SHFS determined refurbish the trails markers. To this end, SHFS established the “Friends of the Trail” program, which allows an individual, with a donation of $100, to have a post refurbished in their name.
“Friends of the Trail” are acknowledged with an special tag on an original Trail post. Donors also receive an photograph of their plaque, along with the post’s GPS location.
Friends of the Trail
|Boyd & Lorene Anderson, Fir Mountain
Lloyd & Nyla Anderson, Fir Mountain
Mark & Barbara Anderson, Regina
Matthew R. Anderson, Verdun, Quebec
Charlotte Ayers, Regina
Gertrude Birrell, Regina
Don Bone, Elrose
Ed & Isabelle Brockmeyer, Humboldt
Kandace Cameron & Vern Enslen, Medicine Hat
Kristin Catherwood, Ceylon
Wade & Jacqueline Chitrena,
Sylvia Danyluk, Shaunavon
Naomi Coe, Regina
Jim & Sue Conly, Macklin
Robert Cunningham, Yorkton
Blair, Marlene & Cody Curry, Fir Mountain
Curry & Flynn Families, Fir Mountain
Don Dowdeswell, Pennant
Anna Belle Elliott, Regina
Marty & Dianne Falconer, Glentworth
Werner & Vera Falk (2), Dundurn
Eva Foster, Regina (memorial)
Jody & Deidre Harden, Glentworth
Paul Heglund, Consul
Irene Hecker, Maple Creek
Ann Halderman, Shaunavon
Hugh Henry, Swift Current
Rod & Dawn Hammond, Bracken
Florette Kane, Val Marie (memorial)
William “Dick” Kane, Val Marie (memorial)
Carl Krause, Saskatoon
Lynn M. McCaslin, Regina
Nicol McCuaig Family, Eastend
Pat & Betty McDougall, Swift Current
Linda McMurray, Eastend
Mildred G. Morrison, Regina
Shelley Parker, Eastend
|Thérèse Lefebvre Prince, Yorkton
Anne Reinhardt, Eatonia
Clint Robertson, Calgary
Andy & Marilyn Roe, Shaunavon
Evelyn Rogers, Regina
Allen Ronaghan, Isley, AB
Shirley Ronaghan, Isley, AB
Velma Rosenberger, Guernsey
Beth M. Rude, Birch Hills
Henry J. Ruhl, Big Valley, AB
Ryder & Couture Family, Eastend
Gene Seis, Swift Current
Len & Jacquie Scott, Cupar
RCMP Supt. Carl W. Smith, Swift Current
Seymour & Grace Smith, Swift Current
South West Naturalists, Swift Current
David Spencer, Swift Current
Anton Stengler, Mankota
Harold Steppuhn, Swift Current
Beverley Flaata Switzer, Mankota
Cec & Cathy Targerson, Maple Creek
Henry & Bea Tasche, Eastend
Stew & Cyndi Tasche, Swift Current
Rosemary Torjusen, Regina
Ann Volden, Eastend
Ron & Ann Volden, Eastend
Grant & Patricia Wagner, Regina
George Wallace, Mankota
Christine Whitaker, Edgeley
Don P. Wilkins, Davidson
Bill & Audrey Wilson, McCord
Bernice V. Wyatt, Regina
Wanda Young, Saskatoon
Become a Friend of the Trail
Click here for a printable application form.
Additional funding for this project was received from the Culture Initiatives Fund, Saskatchewan Culture Youth and Recreation.
310 Kilometers in 21 Days!
Dr. Matthew Anderson (Concordia University) and SHFS Board Member Hugh Henry, ‘pilgrimaged’ and trekked along the NWMP Trail. They were joined by public walkers at various points and enjoyed ‘typical’ prairie weather and hospitality during their journey.
The walk began on July 18 at the Wood Mountain Post Historical Site and was completed at Fort Walsh National Historic Site on August 7th.
There were also associated heritage activities in McCord, Mankota, Val Marie and Eastend. Here is a link to an article published in the Prairie Post newspaper and a link to Matthew Anderson’s blog which chronicled his experience. Saskatoon NewsTalk Radio host John Gormley also interviewed Dr. Anderson and is found here. A CBC radio interview in French is found here. A mini-documentary of the Trek/Pilgrimage is finished and here is the link to its trailer.
Photograph of Trekkers and Pilgrims at Chimney Coulee on August 1/15. Image courtesy of Stewart Tasche.