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Life in Whoop-Up Country:

In 1865, the area north of Montana was known as Whoop-Up country. It was a part of Western Canada that White settlers had not yet moved into, so the Canadian government, for the most part ignored it. There was no one in Whoop-Up country to stop whiskey traders from trading whiskey to the Natives in exchange for furs. Meanwhile, in Montana, trading whiskey to the Natives was illegal. Since White traders could make good money by trading whiskey, they headed north from Montana, out into the freedom of Whoop-Up country.

But when Natives traded for whiskey, their drinking often led to violence. The Native was not used to whiskey, so drinking led to more drinking and then serious fighting, and many died. As the Natives struggled with whiskey, they quarreled with the men who traded it to them. The whiskey traders of Whoop-Up Country found drunk natives to be a threat so they built forts for protection. The forts were given colorful names like Slide-out, Standoff, Whiskey Gap, Fort Whoop-Up, and Robber's Roost.

example of a fort - 161 kb
click to view large color photograph (161 kb).
This is an example of a whiskey trader's fort.
Photograph taken about 1982 at the Saskatchewan
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

inside a fort - 181 kb
click to view color photograph (181 kb).
The inside of another whiskey trader's fort.
This 1982 photograph was also taken at the
Saskatchewan Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Some White men became known as Wolfers because they killed wolves by putting poison on dead buffalo. When the wolves ate the buffalo meat, they died. The Wolfers then skinned the wolves and used the skins for trade. But the Native dogs also ate the buffalo meat and died. This upset the Natives because their dogs were both helpers and friends. So the wolfers also had to build forts to protect themselves.

This was a lawless land so it is not surprising that the wolfers were also upset with the whiskey traders. The whiskey traders made life difficult for the wolfers by trading repeating rifles and ammunition to the Natives.

So the Natives were upset with both the wolfers and the whiskey traders. The wolfers were angry at the whiskey traders, and both the whiskey traders and the wolfers feared the dangerous Natives. The situation was made even worse by the Natives who believed that people could not own animals. They took pride in their ability to take horses from others and then give them to their friends. This seemed like a good idea to the Natives. However, it created enemies.


  to Part 2: Violence in Montana.


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