Fort Whoop-Up

I had the opportunity to tour Fort Whoop-Up, in Lethbridge this weekend. Most interesting. Taken from wiki:

Fort Whoop-Up was the nickname (eventually adopted as the official name) given to a whisky trading post, originally Fort Hamilton, near what is now Lethbridge, Alberta. During the late 19th century, the post served as a centre for trading activities, including the illegal whisky trade. The sale of whisky was outlawed but, due to the lack of law enforcement in the region prior to 1874, many whisky traders had settled in the area and taken to charging unusually high prices for their goods.

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My personal tour guide, Troy.   A history major, Troy is very knowledgable about Fort Whoop-Up as well as other Western Canadian moments in history. Actually, we arrived early at the fort and there was nobody else there. Their loss, my gain!

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According to Troy, the original fort was (I think) 10 k or so up the river.  The original location is designated as a national historic site, but is on private land.

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The RNWMP barracks, which were rented from the owners of the fort. When I tour historic sites from the nineteenth century, I’m always struck by how tiny the characters were.  The average man today would never be able to stretch out on these bunks.

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A typical selection in the store. Only two natives were allowed into the store at one time. Not shown in the picture is the alcohol room, which was locked tighter than a jailhouse. According to Troy, it was locked more to protect the booze from local workers than from the native traders.

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A selection of typical furs involved in the trade:  muskrat, beaver, wolf, fox and even skunk and wolverine.  My guide explained that the ‘wolfers’ could earn as much as $5 for a wolf hide without a bullet hole. This lead them to mix strychnine with buffalo innards, killing both wild and tame animals indiscriminately.  It was also interesting to hear that a large number of buffalo hides went to help fuel the American industrial revolution.  Buffalo hide would outlast cowhide by 3-4 times when used as belting in factories.

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While there is nothing in this photo to give perspective, I was amazed at the size of this wolf. My personal guide, Troy, said the natives used wolves for hauling their goods, as well as for hunting.

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