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Cypress Hills Massacre
[[File:{{{image_name}}}|240x240px|Site of the Cypress Hills Massacre]]
Site of the Cypress Hills Massacre
Year of event 1873

The Cypress Hills Massacre[1][2][3] was a mass murder that occurred on June 1, 1873, in the Cypress Hills region of Battle Creek, North-West Territories (now in Saskatchewan). It involved a group of American bison hunters, American wolf hunters or 'wolfers', American and Canadian whisky traders, Métis cargo haulers or 'freighters', and a camp of Nakoda (Stoney) (or Assiniboine) people. A total of 24 people died.


A large number of horses had been stolen from the wolfers just across the Montana Territory border. Angry over their loss, the wolfers attempted to track the horse thieves into Canada, but soon lost their trail. Instead, the wolfers arrived in the Battle Creek valley where the trading posts operated by Abel Farwell and Moses Solomon were located, opposite a camp of some 200 to 300 Nakoda people. Tensions were already somewhat elevated, alcohol had been flowing freely on all sides, and a misunderstanding over a missing horse led to a mixed group of wolfers, whisky traders, and Métis freighters opening fire on the Nakota camp, resulting in 23 confirmed Nakota deaths and the death of one wolfer, Ed LeGrace. Both trading posts were subsequently abandoned and burned.[1] When the incident occurred, there was uncertainty as to whether to the massacre happened in Montana or the North West Territories, but later evidence proved that the events took place on Canadian land; this finally put a stop of Eastern Canadian complaints on American encroachment. Not long after, the Northwest Mounted Police started restore law and order in Western Canada.[4]

This incident outraged Canadians, who wanted Americans to respect their sovereignty; Western Canada was threatened. This incident led the North-West Territories government of the day (Temporary North-West Council) to pass legislation advising Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to speed up the growth and deployment of the North-West Mounted Police.[5] Fort Walsh was then established in the Cypress Hills region. It served as the NWMP headquarters from 1878 until 1883, and is named after its NWMP (later RCMP) superintendent, James Morrow Walsh. All of the "wolfers" were arrested and tried, but none were ever convicted.[3] The charges were dropped due to the primary witness, Abel Farwell, being of unsound reputation.[6]

The site of the massacre was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1964.[2] Artifacts from the Cypress Hills Massacre have also been preserved at nearby Fort Walsh National Historic Site, along with reconstructions of Farwell's and Solomon's trading posts.

Site of the Cypress Hills Massacre

In fiction

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A fictionalized account of the events of the Cypress Hills Massacre is told in the novel The Englishman's Boy by Canadian author Guy Vanderhaeghe. The story focuses in part on the character of the "Englishman's boy", one of the members of the party of wolfers. While little is known of those involved in the actual event, the novel attributes the cause of the massacre to one Tom Hardwick, the "lead" wolfer. The book was made into a miniseries that first appeared on CBC Television in March 2008.

The movie The Canadians was another fictionalized version. The Cypress Hills Massacre is also used as the plot centrepiece for the Terrance Dicks novel Massacre In the Hills which charts the beginning of the NWMP.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hildebrandt, Walter. "Cypress Hills Massacre". The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. University of Regina. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cypress Hills Massacre. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Cypress Hills Massacre at Parks Canada
  4. Hugh A. Dempsey. The Montana Magazine of History, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1953), pp. 1-9
  5. "The North-West Council". Vol II No. 197. Manitoba Daily Free Press. February 19, 1876. p. 8. 
  6. Hugh A. Dempsey "Cypress Hills Massacre" The Montana Magazine of History, 3(4) (Autumn, 1953)

External links

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