Sunday, November 22, 2009

Canadian Mounties

Most Americans know nothing about Canadian history. I have visited most of Canada's provinces and I may be more educated about Canada than most Americans, but I still find myself woefully ignorant about our friendly neighbors to the north. Sarah Vowell, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, says it is because Canada's history is basically boring. It lacks the cataclysm in which their troubled neighbor to the south is mired. Perhaps it is, but I must say, I admire the boredom.

One big example of US's troubled history is our treatment of the natives of this continent. 19th century events are mired with such massacres (Sand Creek, Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee) ... truly shameful events in our past. Canada's one such massacre is called the Cypress Hill Massacre. In 1873 some horses in Montana were stolen from some whiskey traders. The traders chased the thieves into Canada (into what is now known as Saskatchewan) where they they lost the thieves but came across a camp of Nakotas. They blamed the Nakotas for the theft, killed 23 of them and burned their trading posts to the ground. Please note: Canada's worst Indian massacre had only 23 dead and the killing was done by Americans.

While the American government encouraged such violence offering bounties on scalps, the Canadian government tried to avoid it. To help maintain the peace in the Northwest Territories, Canada's Prime Minister John MacDonald (their first) created the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy (RCMP) aka the Mounties. While America's west was rife with corruption and violence, Canada's was controlled by a police force. While the US's Calvary waged war, Canada's maintained peace. I am sure their harsh weather has a lot to do with the peace being maintained as well.

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