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The Living Legend
Book 5 - The Frontier


STRETCHING north from Canada's provinces far into the polar sea is a strange empty region, North America's last frontier, now a strategic area first line of intercontinental defense, crossroads of global air travel, a potential treasure chest of minerals.

Here is a wilderness half as large as the United States. Great rivers wind through brooding forests and desolate bogs where bands of Indians trap for fox and muskrat. In a few electric-lit oases, men dig gold and uranium, and life and crime is much the same as in cities to the south. Beyond this sub-Arctic bushland, sardonically dubbed "the banana belt," beyond the central barrens, range of the musk ox and caribou, the tundra meets the ice pack, Eskimo nomads stalk the seal and trade their surplus skins in a handful of outports, fragments of civilization fringing an island-studded sea.

The only law in this lonely land is 140 Mounties, scattered across it from Labrador to the Yukon in forty-three outposts, small weatherbeaten frame buildings whose wind-torn Union Jacks proclaim Canadian sovereignty over the territory. In the high north these men lead lives as stark, as withdrawn, as reconciled as any monk in the fastness of Tibet. Yet there is no lack of men for service in what is called G division. Half the men who go in do not want to come out.

Their reasons for volunteering in the first place are not complex. They want to be on their own, free of nagging regulations. They want to see far places and taste adventure. In the sub-Arctic mining towns the Mountie patrols paved streets in jeeps, but in the high north he mushes behind his huskies on patrols as adventurous as any made before the advent of the airplane.

In 1942, Constable Clifford Delisle set out by dog team from Pond Inlet, 425 miles above the Arctic Circle, to check a rumor that a young and attractive Eskimo woman had murdered her husband at Victory Harbour. In the next fifty-two days Delisle covered 1,176 miles. He wore out two dogs and shot a third that went blind in a sleet storm. At Fury Point, confronted by a series of deep crevasses, he crawled across on his komatik (sled) and swung over the dogs by their harness. He narrowly escaped death on Lancaster Sound when the ice he was camping on broke up. He recorded queer accidents: an Eskimo hunter had drifted out to sea on an ice pan and had never been seen again; an Eskimo boy had frozen to death when a bear chased him out of his igloo.

In a snowhouse of the isolated Netsilinguit tribe the Mountie found his murderess, Miktaeyout. By the wavering flame from a dish of seal blubber he wrote down her story. Her husband, a mighty hunter, had been persuaded by a tribesman to leave Miktaeyout and take the tribesman's daughter as wife. Miktaeyout had been consoled with a shiftless substitute named Kookieyout. For two years she and her children lived on the verge of starvation until, unable to bear the pain and shame any longer, she had shot Kookieyout in his sleep.

Delisle took the frozen corpse, murderess and witnesses to Fort Ross for trial when the yearly supply ship, Nasco-pie, came in. But the ship, for the second summer, was unable to break through the ice. A U.S. plane evacuated the Hudson's Bay manager. Delisle released Miktaeyout with a warning to be on hand when the ship arrived the following year. Then he headed home in a long looping patrol through the Eskimo camps.

The sun sank low in the Arctic sky, then disappeared for the winter, and Delisle had to travel by moonlight. He froze his nose, ran out of provisions and had to live off the land, catching fish and hunting polar bear. It took him 98 days to reach Pond Inlet. Going and coming he had covered 3550 miles, interviewed 750 Eskimos, recorded 50 births, 52 deaths, two marriages and gained 20 pounds in weight.

Delisle was an athletic man who jumped out of bed every morning for a snowbath at 30 degrees below zero; the Eskimos thought him mad. He was shaping up as a crack northern traveler till he caught pneumonia at Clyde River and had to come "outside." He has worked ever since in the RCMP Montreal canteen. As for the widow Miktaeyout, she trudged back to Fort Ross next year only to find that once again the supply ship could not get through. It was 1945 before the Nascopie finally made it. Miktaeyout was convicted and sentenced to one year's hard labor in charge of the Mountie at Pangnirtung. On her release she married again, but the marriage didn't work out. Her husband was afraid to come home after each unsuccessful hunting trip.

Delisle's patrol is exceptional only in length. Every Mountie goes out on such routine treks several times a year and he may make other patrols to rescue the sick or insane, deliver mail, map the country, and hunt for missing men. Each patrol tests his skill, endurance and courage.

In 1930, the German Arctic Expedition, led by Dr. H. E. K. Krueger, disappeared across the glacial icecap of mountainous Ellesmere Island. Sergeant Bill Beattie, then a constable at Craig Harbor, says: "We put him on top of the icecap and that's the last we saw of him."

Two RCMP patrols set out to search ninety thousand miles of frozen wasteland, where the gaping mouths of crevasses that plunge down hundreds of feet are deceptively bridged by drifted snow. Heading north with two Eskimos, Corporal Henry Stallworthy, a tall, loose-limbed man with an easy drawl, had one of the closest calls in his notable northern career. His dogs dashed off in a frantic chase after a bear and dropped Stallworthy down a crevasse. At thirty feet it narrowed like an hour-glass and Stallworthy's body jammed, his legs dangling over a black abyss. Before he fainted he managed to call to the Eskimos coming behind him and when he came to they hauled him up on a harpoon line. "I felt a bit shaken," he says, "but after a drink of brandy, I was none the worse for the experience."

Constable "Paddy" Hamilton, heading west meanwhile, was finding the going tougher. One by one he was eating his dogs, chewing the frozen hindquarters raw and feeding his team the remainder. After five days of starvation they sighted a bear. All one day his Eskimo stalked it. Finally he shot it and waited beside the body for Hamilton.

As the Mountie came up, the Eskimo tossed his hat at the bear in an automatic gesture to make sure he'd killed him. The bear sprang up and bit the seat from the Eskimo's fur pants with a sizable chunk of flesh adhering to it. Hamilton shot the beast, which gave them fuel to reach easier country.

In a cairn left by Peary, Stallworthy found a note by Krueger that said he was "going towards Meighen Island." It was late in the year, the ice was rotting, the patrols' food was gone, they'd lost 29 out of 125 dogs; they could not follow him. But with the scarcity of game and Krueger's relative inexperience, Stallworthy was positive he had perished. The German Government sent their appreciation to the searchers.

Three years later Stallworthy guided an Oxford University expedition up the precipitous ice-sheathed coast of Ellesmere. The party split up and Stallworthy's section ran out of food. For three days the Mountie jigged for fish through a hole in the sea ice, constantly stirring the water to keep it from freezing, catching only a mouthful a day for each dog, while on the slopes within rifle range the musk ox, protected by law, pawed away the snow for grass like cattle. "I cannot look at them," the police-employed Eskimo said, after Stallworthy had refused to let him shoot one. 'They give me a headache." A lucky encounter with caribou got the party back to seal country and kept Stall-worthy's ethics intact.

A patrol is usually a contest with either the elements or animals. One night in the Parry Islands, Inspector Alfred Joy and Constable Reginald Taggart were wakened in their igloo by the frenzied barking of their dogs. "Bear!" guessed their Eskimo hunter, cutting a hole in the igloo with his snowknife and peering out. "Bear is stealing stores off komatick."

Taggart had left his loaded rifle outside by the igloo entrance so that it would not sweat and freeze. The entrance was blocked by drifted snow. He pulled on his clothes and began to cut a hole beside the entrance.

"Bear on the roof," the Eskimo reported, taking his cue from the direction the dogs were looking.

Taggart stuck his head through his hole and looked squarely into the bear's mouth. He hurriedly pulled back in and the bear lunged after him. Taggart whacked him across the nose with his snowknife. The bear withdrew his head but remained by the hole, crouched like a monstrous cat about to pounce.

Taggart and the bear regarded each other. Just outside, tantalizingly within reach, Taggart could see his rifle. Cautiously, he stretched out his arm; he had the gun halfway inside when the bear's paw flashed out and his claws hooked the barrel of the weapon.

Taggart pulled and the bear pulled and the bear won. Again they stared at each other with the rifle in front of the bear's paws. Again, Taggart slowly reached out and slowly pulled it in. In an instant he reversed it, aimed, and shot the bear through the head.

Such adventures are mixed with a lot of prosaic paper work, for the Mountie, off patrol, has forms to fill in for fuel, supplies, mileage and natives' pay. He has to collect rock specimens and taxes on furs, and take weather readings with ten instruments. He must issue the natives relief, old age pensions and family allowances, and explain to the luckier trappers why they must pay income tax. After one Mountie's long and patient explanation, an Eskimo trapper vehemently shook his head. He wasn't going to "buy" any income tax, the "price" was too high.

The Mountie is a postmaster, mining recorder, customs collector, aircraft inspector, fisheries officer, game warden and marriage counselor. He may even have to cater to philatelists. For years the annual supply ship brought mail from all over the world to the Craig Harbour outpost for stamping. It was sent by collectors, addressed to themselves, to obtain the world's most northerly postmark. It is typical of the RCMP in the Arctic than an inspector, in his capacity as policeman, once brought in an Eskimo murderer, committed him for trial as a magistrate, kept him locked up as jailer, supervised his hanging as sheriff and recorded his death as a coroner.

Simply to stay alive keeps the Mountie occupied. Ice for his water supply must be cut from a nearby lake or iceberg, hauled by sled and stored out of reach of the dogs. The dog harness must be mended, rifles oiled, boats calked, tools sharpened, fish nets repaired, stovepipes cleaned. The Mountie must sew, wash and iron his clothes. He has to hunt and fish for dog food and fresh meat, which is often sport but sometimes hard work. He learns how to skin and cut up a carcass. He becomes an accomplished housekeeper and cook. Two Mounties once had an argument about who baked the better bread and didn't speak to each other for two months. Week about, each cooked the meals, and woke the other by gramophone.

In a land cut off from refinements, food takes on an added importance. At Pangnirtung one Christmas, Constable Hughie Margetts was overwhelmed by a craving for roast pork. Returning from leave on the annual supply ship he brought three pigs in crates. Off the Labrador coast the ship hit bad weather. Margetts' only concern was his pigs. Two of the crates, lashed amidships, were washed overboard, and the Mountie sprained his leg trying to save them.

At Pangnirtung he built a pen and a house for his one remaining animal. In the polar cold it sprouted hair till it looked like a miniature musk ox. Margetts and the other Mountie became so fond of the creature that they didn't have the heart to kill it for Christmas. But the vision of roast pork was overpowering. They asked their Eskimo hunter to shoot it.

The Eskimo had also grown attached to the pig. He closed his eyes as he fired and shot the animal through the ear. It ran squealing into its shelter and could not be coaxed to come out. The native had to tear down the pig-house to shoot it. The two Mounties ate a delicious Christmas dinner of roast pork with tears trickling down their windburned faces.

G division is not made up entirely of lonely bachelors. More than a fifth of the men on Arctic service are married. Several wives are nurses for the Department of Health and Welfare, and they too must measure up to emergencies. At Old Crow in the Yukon the wife of Corporal Ernest Kirk chanced to see an Indian boy slip and fall. Immediately his huskies leaped upon him; their long fangs tore his clothing to tatters, slashed ribbons of flesh from his face. Mrs. Kirk snatched up a stick and beat off the blood-maddened animals. Her prompt and courageous action won her a Humane Society certificate.

It is not an easy life for a woman. When Margaret Clay went into the western Arctic in the 'twenties with Staff Sergeant Sidney Clay, all her household possessions sank with an overloaded scow to the bottom of the Athabasca River. At Chesterfield Inlet a few years later, when Clay was on patrol, she was walking alone by her house and the huskies attacked her.

A native woman heard the dogs snarling and ran to the post for help. Two Mounties drove the dogs back and carried the unconscious woman into the house. The flesh of her right leg from ankle to knee had been chewed off.

In terrible pain, she begged the Mounties, Corporal Oliver Petty and Constable Henry Stallworthy, to amputate her leg. The two men talked it over through most of that night. They did not think the leg could be saved and they were afraid of gangrene. By morning they had decided. They asked Father E. Duplain, a Catholic priest with some knowledge of medicine, and the Hudson's Bay factor, E. B. Snow, to operate. "You've had more experience than

we have," Petty said, "but I'll take full responsibility."

The operation seemed to go well. Mrs. Clay was cheerful when she recovered consciousness. Stallworthy and two Hudson's Bay men set out by boat in a blizzard to fetch her husband from Baker Lake but the wind drove them back. The following day Mrs. Clay sank into a coma; she died that night. By the time Clay returned his men had buried her.

No one knows just why Mrs. Clay was attacked by her dogs, handsome hardworking animals which she had been petting for months. Perhaps, like the Eskimo boy, she had lost her footing. Helplessness provokes the wolf in the husky. Occasionally, when hunting, a Mountie will tether a husky bitch where a wolf can visit her. The pups by this mating have too much wolf blood in them to be useful but crossed with huskies they make fine sled-dogs, one quarter wolf.

Tragedy is not uncommon but life is far from grim, even during the long midnight of winter. There is usually two Hudson's Bay Company men, a minister or priest for the Mountie to swap yarns or play cribbage with. He reads; crates of books circulate from post to post, though occasionally, by error, one post gets the same crate back and a desperate man may be forced to read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. He may take up bead work, try hooking rugs, carve ivory walrus tusks. He huddles close to his radio to catch the Northern Messenger, a CBC program that brings him news from the relatives at home. "We have a message for Corporal MacBeth," the broadcaster announces. MacBeth hitches his chair a little closer to the loudspeaker. A sudden gale obscures the message.

On Saturday night the Eskimos drop in for tea and games and the Mountie must get down on the floor for friendly contests of arm twisting and thumb pulling. No matter how strong the Mountie is, he is at a disadvantage, for the Eskimo, who seldom washes, has slippery hands. When their last visitor has said good night, the Mounties close up the kitchen, bring out their portable rubberized tub, fill it from hot-water kettles, and soak.

At Moose Factory, Corporal E. S. "Tiny" Covell, six feet seven-and-a-half, used to amuse himself by impressing the Indians with feats of magic. One favorite was to conjure up a dollar bill by burning a cigarette paper. After a show at Albany post an Indian chief came around and presented him with a bundle of newspapers. "Medicine man burn these," he suggested. "Make lots of money."

Covell played his biggest audience six hundred natives in a boatshed turned theater at Moose Factory. As the natives nailed him, handcuffed, into a box for "The Packing Case Escape," one Indian leaving the stage was heard to say, "At last I have policeman where I want him. Now I make some home brew." When he got back to his seat he found the Mountie sitting in it. Tiny's awesome reputation kept the natives in his area in a constant state of grace.

Life on the frontier is spiced with humor, occasionally risk and adventure, but always and above all it imposes responsibility. When the fall fish runs are poor and the caribou fail to appear, the Mountie may radio Fort Smith to have the police plane drop food. More frequently he hitches up his dogs and goes out himself.

Late one night just before the war, a trapper, Charles Linklater, came into Old Crow detachment high in the Yukon. An Indian family named Thomas, he said, was starving at Bluefish Lake, more than a hundred miles away. They had no transportation, their dogs were dead. Except for an American trapper, Harold Ostrude, they too would have died. Ostrude had given them all his supplies. Living on nothing but tea for three days he had brought three of the family seventy miles to Rampart House, then sent Link-later on to notify the Mounties.

Corporal Ernest Kirk was alone his partner was on patrol. He borrowed four dogs, packed a heavy load of rations and set out with a local trapper. They stopped briefly at Rampart House, bought more dogs and picked up Ostrude. On the fourth day, ten miles from the Thomas camp, they sighted a campfire. It was Thomas and his teen-age son, trying to thaw the remains of a moose's stomach, all that was left after wolves had killed the animal months before. They had carefully scraped up the blood-soaked snow to carry back to the children but the effort had taken the last of their strength. Kirk thawed a can of broth, fed the two men, and the trappers lifted them onto the sleds.

Long before they reached the Thomas camp they could hear the children crying. Their stomachs were distended. The eyes of one eight-year-old boy were swollen shut. But the children were in better shape than the adults. One 18-year-old had died in raving agony two weeks before. The family had eaten their caribou skin bedding, moosehide toboggan baskets and snowshoe webbing. Kirk brought them back with him to Old Crow. He traveled slowly, stopping every hour to feed them hot canned milk and broth. By the time they arrived Kirk was able to write in his report that "the children were recovering their spirits, and the whole family was getting stronger."

Mounties on Northern service may act as nurses, mid-wives, and doctors. In April 1953, an Eskimo hunter named Mingeeneeak was brought into the Lake Harbor police post on Hudson Strait, bent over with pain and clutching his stomach. Constable Alexis Wight took his temperature: 101 degrees. He put him in bed, then radioed his symptoms to the nearest doctor at Pangnirtung.

"It sounds like appendicitis," the doctor radioed back. "Keep him in bed and give him penicillin daily."

The retching stopped and the pain disappeared. But in four days Mingeeneeak's lower abdomen started to swell. "Better operate," the doctor advised.

Wight put a pot of water on his stove to boil and went next door for the Hudson's Bay manager. They laid the Eskimo on the detachment table, sterilized their instruments, washed the swollen bluish-brown abdomen with alcohol, put an ether mask on Mingeeneeak's face, and with the radio beside them, an invisible but audible fourth person, Constable Wight made the incision. Somewhat disturbed, he reported to the doctor that Mingeeneeak did not appear to have any appendix. That was all right, the doctor replied, sometimes Eskimos who live entirely on meat do not have one. But the operation was nevertheless successful, for the swelling vanished, the stitches healed well and within a week Mingeeneeak was back hunting.

Even a minor illness can be fatal to the Eskimos, who have not yet built up immunity to the white man's diseases. When Sergeant Glyn Abraham was serving at Cambridge Bay on the Arctic Ocean just before World War II, a native came in to ask for help. His people, camped on the sea ice twenty miles out, were coughing and spitting.

Abraham did not underrate the danger. He left at once. He found the entire camp, a dozen igloos, some forty people, sick with flu. Some simply lay on their skin-covered sleeping platforms waiting to die, for the Eskimo is a fatalist. Two were already dead.

Abraham pointed to the bodies. "You can take them to the land," he said, meaning he wanted them buried. "None of you will leave here, and each family will stay in its igloo." They had spread the disease by visiting one another.

The Mountie made sure each patient was warm. He gave them laxatives. He rubbed their chests with antiphlogis-tine. "You're not going to die," he told each patient firmly. He made jokes, arousing their sense of humor and their hope.

Next day he heard that people were sick in another camp twelve miles away. He hurried back for his detachment partner; between them they nursed the two camps back to health. Then they let them return to the mainland where the Eskimos had food cached all except one woman who did not seem to be recovering. The flu had killed her husband, she had remarried immediately, and she and her bridegroom appealed to the Mounties to let them leave this place where evil spirits dwelt and caused death. Thinking that fear of the campsite might be retarding the woman's recovery, Abraham let them go.

The following day he trailed them to their new camp. He found the husband distracted, the woman lying unconscious. At first Abraham thought she had had a relapse. On examination he found she had had a miscarriage. He had not even suspected, swathed as she was in bulky furs, that his patient had been pregnant. He removed the dead child, washed the woman, warmed her with hot soup, and soon had her smiling, proud that her stillborn child had been male.

The farther north a Mountie serves the less crime there is and the more he is called on to aid and nurse the sick and the starving. And the Mountie, in fulfilling this elemental obligation, sometimes sheds a burden of doubt and frustration so heavy that some have remarked on a sense of exhilaration, as if they were free for the first time in their lives.

Many are able to pay the price of loneliness for this freedom. They take faith from a deepened sense of humanity, from the order perceived behind the chaos of nature, from their own increasing self-reliance. Their exploits filter down to enrich the shop talk of the force and when they come outside their attitudes strengthen the frontier traditions that were forged on the western plains in the 1870s.


THE BLACKFOOT had been hunting buffalo when they sighted the dust and now they lay belly-flat in sparse dry grass on top of a rise and watched the curious procession winding toward them. It straggled across the prairie as far as they could see, a long file of freight wagons, oxcarts and catde. And on the flanks rode pony soldiers; their coats shone red in the sun; pennants fluttered gaily from their lances. But as they came closer, moving very slowly, the Blackfoot saw that the riders were haggard, the horses emaciated. And when the procession stopped and the ear-splitting shrill of the cartwheels ceased, they could hear the low sick moaning of the cattle.

For weeks, unseen, the Blackfoot shadowed the queer cavalcade, sending back reports that puzzled their chiefs. Who were these redcoats riding through Blackfoot country so blindly that their horses died from lack of water or grass? If they came to make war why did they carry machines to break the land? If they came in peace why were they hauling cannon? Should they be killed as the young men urged, or should they heed Crowfoot, their great chief, who counseled them to wait and judge the redcoats by their actions?

The redcoats were struggling westward by order of John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of a nation born in 1867 only seven years before. Homely, dryly humorous and sly as a wolverine, Sir John, in 1869, had helped close history's biggest real estate deal. For $1,500,000 Canada bought from the Hudson's Bay Company a region as big as half of Europe, two and a third million square miles stretching north and west of Winnipeg. But the land was Canada's in name only. Thirty thousand Indians roamed these prairies, fierce, independent, never defeated by the white man, unsurpassed as plainsmen except perhaps by their kinsmen the Metis, the halfbreeds who lived along the Red River. And the Metis had no love for Canada. They had had to use armed resistance before Sir John would grant their rights and when the affair was over and their army was disbanded he had exiled their leader, Louis Riel.

Fiery opposition critic William Lyon Mackenzie called the purchase "a magnificent piece of foolery!" The Northwest, sneered Disraeli, was "an illimitable wilderness." But Sir John dreamed of a continental empire, and in 1871 he lured British Columbia into his union by promising a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. "Impossible!" his opponents declared, and even if it could be built it would end as a streak of rust across nine hundred miles of empty prairie.

Sir John moved warily through a maze of intrigue. The British, though they wanted a route to the Orient, would give him only limited support; they desired no further strain on U.S. relations. And the United States, wrote Sir John in 1870, "are resolved to do all they can, short of war, to get possession of the western territory. . . ." Sir John had no illusions about why Hamilton Fish, the U.S.

Secretary of State, had pressed Britain to grant Canadian independence. When the factories of St. Louis had drawn the Northwest into their orbit, Fish wanted to deal with a weak Canadian government. Only a coast-to-coast railway, costly risk though it might be, could break the tightening economic grip of the United States. But before Sir John could build a railroad he had to control the prairies.

Sir John's intelligence officers scouted the west and reported danger. Montana frontiersmen traders, freebooters, outlaws were running rotgut whiskey across the border to Blackfoot country to plunder the last great Indian wealth of the plains. Murder and rape were standard amusements in drunken brawls. Traders connived to get Indians to wipe out competing trading posts. Any of these incidents might touch off an Indian war that could set the entire Northwest aflame.

South of the border Indian wars had cost hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of settlers' lives. Canada could not afford a Wild West. The entire Canadian budget and the whole Canadian Army would not be enough to subdue thirty thousand Indians. Nor did Sir John dare send west a force big enough to provoke the Americans.

In August 1873, he drafted a bill to raise six troops of cavalry, three hundred men whom he called the "Mounted Rifles," and he ordered them issued with crimson coats patterned after the British Army, the most distinctive uniform in all the colonial wars, the insignia of men who had never broken their word to an Indian tribe. As they traveled west to Fort Garry for training, U.S. newspaper headlines warned that Canada was raising an expeditionary force.

Sir John, with a wry smile, picked up his pen, stroked out the word "Rifles" and above it wrote "Police."

But it was indisputably a military force. Its commander, George French, a good friend of Sir John and sometime trooper in the Royal Irish Constabulary, was OC of Canada's School of Gunnery, a Royal Artillery colonel. French drilled his wild young recruits, half of whom had already seen service, on the open prairie beside the stonewalled bastion of Fort Garry from six a.m. until after dark rifle practice, foot drill, horsemanship and he issued salt to rub on their saddle sores until, as one said, "we became so tough I could sit on a prickly pear." Yet French was no martinet; rather, a conscientious leader who foresaw that the lives of his men were soon to hang by a thread of discipline.

Hair-prickling rumors reached the old stone fort that spring of '74. Three hundred gunslicks were gathering in the foothills to stand the police off. The Sioux and the Blackfoot had taken the warpath. Thirty-one men deserted and Manitoba's Lieutenant Governor, Alexander Morris, wrote to the Minister of the Interior that he "believed the Privy Council had not yet fully realized the magnitude of the task that lay before the police . . ."

French called a full-dress parade and spoke bluntly. They were facing unknown odds in an unknown country. Their objective: to take Fort Whoop-up, the main outlaw stronghold. Even the march of eight hundred miles to the Rockies would be rough, for lack of supplies had delayed their start and the rains had been light that spring. Anyone else who wished to back out could do so now, French said.

A few more left but morale rose. It was their first shakedown.

On July 8, with a rousing cheer, they set out for the land of the Blackfoot, two hundred and seventy-five rookies riding guard on a column of carts and wagons loaded with gear, supplies, farm machinery and ammunition. Dragging two mortars, two field pieces, and behind them a herd of cattle, they plodded over a plain scorched brown by the midsummer sun. Alkali shimmered like soap flakes in the dry water holes. Some of the larger sloughs had been trampled to paste by wallowing buffalo. Men drank filtered water the color of ink and came down with dysentery.

Progress was painful, fifteen or twenty miles a day. Hordes of mosquitoes, riding the wind, swept down upon them and left the cattle, horses and riders9 faces streaming blood. Once a sky-blackening swarm of grasshoppers stripped the paint from their wagons and, passing, left the plains a naked desert. Heat lightning flickered in the awesome expanse of sky and thunder echoed ominously. Everywhere they saw bleached bones of buffalo.

Late in August the Cypress Hills loomed dark and low on their left. This was the border of Blackfoot country. Beyond, the guides proved useless. The horses grew too weak to ride; many fell and did not rise; the troopers walked, their worn-out boots wrapped in sacks. They had met only one small band of Sioux, three brigades of buffalo hunters, a party of boundary surveyors and a scout named Morri-seau, whom French hired.

By September 14 they had reached the forks of the Bow and Belly Rivers but now French knew that he had been misinformed. Fort Whoop-up was nowhere to be found. His sketch maps were inaccurate. The troops were hopelessly lost. French suspected that Morriseau was an outlaw spy who had lost them deliberately. French no longer thought of success but of their lives, for now in the mornings ice crusted the sloughs, soon the buffalo dung, their only fuel, would be buried under snow.

They were sighting buffalo every day now, buffalo by the thousands, huge shaggy creatures slowly moving south. French took the advice of his Metis guides and followed the herds. Four days later, navigating by starlight, they sighted the Rockies, soaring miragelike in the distance. Hope revived them; they stumbled forward to grass, water and wood in the Sweet Grass Hills, from where a well-marked trail led into Montana.

Leaving his column to camp and recuperate, French and a few men rode south to Benton, "Chicago of the Plains." Here hurdy-gurdy joints jostled great trading houses; missionaries mingled with men on the dodge; miners, hunters, trappers, muleskinners, prostitutes, landgrabbers, gamblers, cowboys, Indians, soldiers and rivermen thronged the board walks. Benton, at the head of navigation on the Missouri, was on the verge of its golden age as the hub of northwestern commerce and future merchant princes courted French for his custom and corrected the maps and reports given him by Sir John.

The stories of Whoop-up were gross exaggerations, said I. G. Baker, a leading Benton merchant. The Hudson's Bay Company had spread them to bring the Canadian Army west and crush the whiskey trade that was ruining their business. Sure, the boys had boasted in Benton saloons of how they would get the police, but that was whiskey talk. Few whiskey traders were outlaws, they were merely quick-triggered frontiersmen who felt that the only good Indian was a dead one. The Blackfoot were the real threat.

Soon an I. G. Baker bull train was toiling toward the Sweet Grass Hills with supplies for the two troops French was leading back to Manitoba. One troop had already struck north to Fort Edmonton earlier and French was leaving three troops with Assistant Commissioner James Macleod to winter in the foothills, stamp out the whiskey traffic, and try to win the confidence of the Blackfoot.

Macleod lingered some days in Benton, collecting information. The Blackfoot, he learned, still ruled the foothills, having defeated the Crees in a great battle five years before. But that year Missouri steamboats carried smallpox north with their cargoes and the Indian tribes were decimated like snow before a chinook. In hopeless hate they dragged their black and swollen dead near the trade posts where the wind would carry the plague to the whites within; they crept to the stockade walls at night and rubbed their sores on the gates. But the plague was brief and in the end less malevolent than the traders who built the posts with colorful names like Whoop-up, Stand-off and Slide-out, stockades of upright logs with sharpened ends to impale those Indians drink-crazed enough to try to scale them. The whiskey shoved out through the wicket, one cup in return for one robe shoved in, was raw alcohol spiked with red peppers and colored with blackstrap, tea, or tobacco, a concoction that would malign the Indian for years to come with the myth that he could not hold his liquor. When their furs were gone the Indians would trade their horses, their food, even their wives and daughters for more whiskey; they would try to climb on the trading post roof to slide down the chimney. Driven off by rifle fire, they would turn on each other; some seventy squaws had been widowed this past year. In the morning the braves would wake up sick, broke, shamed and bitter. Once wealthy, the foothill tribes were growing poor, soon their chiefs would be desperate; already they had burned three trading posts.

Macleod hired a scout to guide him to Whoop-up, a tracker of uncanny skill named Jerry Potts, a sour, sawed-off, bandy-legged 'breed who had killed his first man at fifteen and scalped his way into Blackfoot inner war councils. As dawn broke on October 9, Macleod was positioning his mortars on the banks of the Belly River above the fort, massive, gray-timbered, and loopholed. As the men watched, an Indian woman carrying a pail came out of one building and entered another. They could hear no sound but the rooting of pigs which the traders kept to kill rattlesnakes.

The redcoats advanced in skirmishing order, then halted. Tensely they watched Macleod and Potts stride ahead with drawn guns and hammer on the heavy oaken gate. Finally it swung open. A tall angular man with sharp eyes, a long nose and a brown pointed goatee drawled, "Walk in, General. Walk in, General, make yourself at home." His name was Dave Akers. Instead of resistance he offered them buffalo steaks. His partners had discreedy taken themselves and the whiskey off when they heard the police were coming.

The Mounties had gained their first objective without firing a shot. Their only contact with Indians had been to pick up their lice when they slept on an Indian camping site. Nevertheless they had been tried. The land itself had tried them. They had blazed no trails pioneers had passed that way before. But considering their inexperience the march had been epic. All ranks were understandably proud of themselves. Esprit de corps had been born.

Now winter was closing in on Macleod, his men were still tired from their ordeal, and Dave Akers refused his offer of $10,000 for Whoop-up. Twenty-eight miles northwest, on the site of the town that bears his name, Macleod set his troopers felling cottonwood trees. "I have made up my mind," he reported to French on November 1, after battling a snowstorm that threatened to kill his horses, "that not a single log of men's quarters shall be laid until the horses are provided for, as well as a few sick men. Then the men's quarters will be proceeded with, and after that the officers'."

Always in Macleod's mind these first critical months was the knowledge that he was deep in Blackfoot country; they surrounded him, some eight thousand savages, the most warlike on the plains. The uncertainty of their intentions weighed upon him. Though he seldom saw an Indian he knew that no move of his escaped them. In Benton they were offering odds that his force would be wiped out by spring.

Macleod at this time was 38, a courtly black-bearded

Scot with a lengendary capacity for liquor. He was charming, shrewd and tough, in that order, qualities that had brought him success as a soldier and a lawyer. He had now to prove his aptitude for diplomacy.

His policy was simple but startling in its contrast to that practiced south of the border. There the policy at first had been to exterminate the Indians, to break their power by any means: bullets, alcoholism, disease, systematic destruction of the buffalo, broken treaties. This had given way to a policy of humanitarianism. It too had ended in bloodshed, reinforcing the frontier belief that the Indian could be tamed only by force. But Macleod and Commissioner French had talked it over many times and they felt that U.S. policy changed too late, and then more out of sentiment, expediency and guilt than out of respect for the Indians or faith in justice. French, deciding on equal rights for all, Indians and whites alike, selected for the motto of his force Maintiens le droit. It was a policy proper both to their situation the Indians' strength and their own character the rigid chivalric code of honor that had been maturing since King Arthur's day in the upper ranks of the British cavalry.

There was only one way to begin: strike at the whiskey traders and hope that the Blackfoot chiefs would be grateful. Every man Macleod could spare from building he put on patrol. All incoming pack trains and oxcarts were searched, any whiskey found was dumped, and the smugglers were fined or sent to jail.

"You put me in jail," Macleod was warned by one persistent trader, an influential Benton merchant, J. D.

Weatherwax, "and I'll make them wires to Washington hum when I get out."

"Let them hum," said Macleod. "In the meantime you go to jail. And if you say any more I'll double your sentence."

Waxey's jail term was a lively conversation piece in Benton. "We knew from experience," wrote John J. Healy, an ex-whiskey trader who edited the Fort Benton Record, "that wherever the English flag floats might is right, but we had no idea that the persons and property of American citizens would be trifled with."

Other Bentonites took a longer view of the incident. It was clear that these federal police were unlike all others. No dreams of fortune had brought them west, no hope of gain would tempt {hem; they stood apart from politics, unmoved by local pressures. And merchants like I. G. Baker, who had helped finance Fort Whoop-up, read the signs of a passing age and judged that legal expansion would be not only safer but more profitable. "The police you stationed north of here," he wrote to connections in Ottawa, "are certainly doing a great deal of good in suppressing the whisky trade. . . ."

But Macleod was aware that die-hard traders were still at work spreading lies about the police in hope of rousing the Blackfoot against them. Late in November he judged the time ripe to move. He dispatched Jerry Potts with a message to all chiefs of the Blackfoot alliance Blackfoot, Blood and Piegan inviting them to a great feast in the nearly finished fort. One by one the chiefs rode in to accept his offer. Only Crowfoot, great Ogemah of the Blackfoot, supreme leader of the alliance, held aloof. But Crowfoot, as Macleod well knew, would be told every word that was spoken.

The chiefs were an intelligent, strong-looking group of men. Macleod, resplendent in gold braid and plumes and flanked by a guard of honor, greeted them warmly. After much ceremony he made his prepared speech. The redcoats, he said, did not covet the Indians' land. When the White Mother wanted land she would send her great men to bargain for it. She had heard that white men and whiskey were bringing sadness to Indian lodges and she had sent the redcoats to bring the law to all in the west, the same law for Indians as for whites. At first, this law might seem strange. But no Indian would be punished for something he did not know to be wrong. The law was just, and justice and truth were things that all men knew, the great common law of human nature. As surely as the Great Spirit made water to run downhill He made men to be drawn toward truth and justice. The chiefs accepted his gifts and rode away.

On December 1 a band of horsemen in beaded buckskins and war bonnets rode up to the stockade gate. The warriors accompanied a tall man who carried an air of command. A blanket fell from his broad shoulders in stately folds and he carried an eagle's wing, symbol of kingship. Word spread swiftly through the fort: Crowfoot himself had come.

Isapwo Muksika, or Crow Big Foot, was perhaps six years older than Macleod. Each finely embroidered line on his buckskin jacket was a campaign ribbon, a victory won holding these foothills against all comers. But he was also a poet, an orator, a tribal politician and a sage. He could foresee the time when the buffalo would vanish and the Indian would need the white man's help in finding a new way of life.

As he clasped the hand of the redcoat chief who had routed the whiskey traders a bond of fellowship sprang up between the two men. "We shall call you Stamix Otokan [Bull's Head]," Crowfoot told the Mountie, perhaps because of the buffalo head above Macleod's quarters (already suggested to Ottawa as an emblem for the force).

The friendship was often strained. Only a few weeks later they were trading bitter words about the arrest of some Blackfoot horse thieves. It was hard for Crowfoot, who believed that the land and its creatures were owned by God, to grasp the sanctity of private property. Yet despite his anger he let Macleod persuade him to come to the trial. He listened, engrossed, his anger forgotten. At the end he told Macleod, "This is good medicine. This is the place where the forked tongue is made straight. When my people do wrong they shall come here." And upon a later meeting he exclaimed impulsively, "You are a brave man, Stamix Otokan. The law of the Great White Mother must be good when she has a son such as you. We will obey that law."

It was a gentleman's agreement, formally ratified two years later at Blackfoot Crossing on the Bow River. To this beautiful valley, a sacred burial spot, came every tribe in the foothills, some 4800 Indians, each warrior fully armed, to hear Lieutenant Governor David Laird offer the terms that would place them on reservations. He offered them their choice of reserves, with roads, cattle, seed, ammunition, school teachers, $12 for every person in the tribe this year, $5 every year thereafter. The terms had been accepted as fair by the plains Indians to the east, but in the minds of both Indians and whites was the knowledge that south of the line the peaceable Nez Perces were fighting a brilliant but losing battle brought on by a broken treaty.

Shrewdly Laird linked his government to the Mounted Police whom most of the chiefs had come to know. "When bad white men brought you whiskey," he said, "robbed you and made you poor, and through whiskey made you quarrel amongst yourselves, the White Mother sent the Mounted Police to put an end to it." Then he asked them to retire to their council tents and consider the terms.

Crowfoot was first to reply two days later. "If the police had not come to this country where would we all be now?" he said, "Bad men and whiskey were killing us so fast that few of us would have been alive today. The Mounted Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter. ... I am satisfied. I will sign the treaty."

One by one the other leaders responded. Said Red Crow, chief of all the Bloods: "Three years ago, when the Mounted Police came to this country, I met and shook hands with Stamix Otokan at Belly River. Since that time he made many promises. He has kept them all. Not one has been broken. ... I entirely trust Stamix Otokan and will leave everything to him. I will sign with Crowfoot."

Said Eagle Tail, head chief of the Piegans: "I shall never forget the help and advice I received from the police. I trust the treaty will endure as long as the moon brightens the night, as long as water runs and the grass grows in the spring."

Said Bull's Head of the Sarcees, a notorious troublemaker: "We are all going to take your advice." And as Crowfoot made his mark upon the treaty parchment he said, "I have been the first to sign. I shall be the last to break."

The treaty was signed in September 1877. On this treaty the peace of the Northwest would depend. Already, war had been narrowly averted by the gentleman's agreement upon which the treaty was based, that tenuous link of trust between two men of differing faiths.


TO THE Little Big Horn River in the Black Hills of Dakota in May 1876 came all the tribes of the Sioux to join in council, the most powerful gathering of Indians ever to meet on American plains. The year before, Colonel George Custer had led an expedition into these hills and reported "gold in the grassroots." This was a secret the Sioux had guarded for nine years under penalty of death for betrayal. Now, as they had foreseen, the whites were crowding in, unconcerned that the Sioux held this land by treaty with the United States.

"We know the soldiers plan to kill us," cried Sitting Bull, onetime medicine man who had climbed to be captain of all Hunkpapa warriors. "Let us have one big fight with the soldiers!"

The convention agreed. Sitting Bull was elected supreme military leader and out of his lodge that night slipped a courier, riding hard to the north.

Nine days later, caked with dust, he rode into Crowfoot's camp. He brought tobacco from Sitting Bull, he told the Blackfoot leader. Would Crowfoot smoke it and join the Sioux in battle with the Long Knives? Many more tribes would join them if Crowfoot agreed. When they had killed all the white men south of the Medicine Line the Sioux would help Blackfoot kill all the whites in the north. The police forts, the courier pointed out, would be easy to take.

Long into the night the Blackfoot argued Crowfoot against the younger braves excited by visions of glory. Here was the specter feared by perceptive whites on both sides of the border: the rise of an Indian leader who could unite the scattered tribes in a war to recapture their lost power. But Sitting Bull had made his play too late.

"Tell Sitting Bull," said Crowfoot, "that we cannot smoke his tobacco on such terms. The police are our friends."

The courier flung the tobacco to the ground. "We will kill the Long Knives ourselves," he said curtly. "We will then come north and see if the Blackfoot remember how to make war."

Macleod, on receiving this news, sent Crowfoot his thanks and assurance that the police would fight beside the Blackfoot in case of a Sioux attack. Macleod was both relieved and apprehensive, for he already knew, via Ottawa dispatches, that Sitting Bull was right, the U.S. Army planned to attack the Sioux, and should the tribes be driven north God alone knew what would happen.

A month later a Metis scout burst into Macleod's office. "Colonel," he cried, "Sitting Bull and his Sioux just wiped out Custer's Seventh Cavalry every last man and they're headed for Canada."

They came in December, two thousand strong, men whom whites called "the tigers of the plains," huge battle-scarred warriors such as the Mounties had never before seen. They came again, another thousand, in January and they camped in the wooded coulees among the Cypress Hills Sans Arcs, Ogalallas, Hunkpapas, Minneconjous, Two Kettles, Blackfeet Sioux and they waited for their leader, Sitting Bull, who was fighting a rearguard action up the Missouri.

Days before he arrived scouts brought news of his coming to J. M. Walsh, commandant at Fort Walsh south of the hills. It was Walsh who would have to cope with the crisis, a bold-eyed ex-cavalry major with bristling hair and a handsome mustache. He was a forceful officer, quick in all he did and said, too ready to curse at trifles but when the chips were down, amazingly steady and cool. He had the egotist's flair for showmanship and he had luck or he would not have survived that month of March. He set out at once on his horse Barney to intercept Sitting Bull's band, a flamboyant figure in knee-high boots and immaculate fawn sombrero, accompanied by three constables, a sergeant and Peter Leveille, a scout so devoted to Walsh that he would not let him out of his sight.

In two days they struck a trail made by many horsemen and soon on the hilltops ahead they saw Sioux scouts. The Sioux came pressing from all directions, ringing them, silently riding beside them, their big hands lightly balancing carbines stamped by the U.S. Army, the scalps of Custer's men joggling from their belts. Calmly Walsh cantered on to the edge of a large camp, where his path was barred by a line of towering warriors.

Walsh dismounted. A chief stepped forward, battle-ax in hand, a long shaft inset with three steel blades. He was young, handsome, at least six feet six, and his voice seemed to come from the depths of his powerful chest. Walsh's scout, interpreting, introduced him as Spotted Eagle, war chief of the Sans Arcs. "It's Sitting Bull's camp, all right," the interpreter said. "He says it's the first time a soldier has dared to enter it."

"Explain that we're police," Walsh said. "Ask them if they know they are in the land of the Great White Mother."

Spotted Eagle nodded. Walsh followed his backward glance and saw in front of a war lodge a group of enormous men. One beckoned, Walsh stepped forward, the group parted, and Walsh was face to face with Sitting Bull.

The renowned killer looked small beside his gigantic bodyguard. A blanket clutched tightly round his stocky form concealed his bowlegs. His head was massive. Two braids of light brown hair fell across his breast, framing his face, broad, unpainted, stern, pitted cruelly with smallpox. He was only forty-three but he looked older. Then his wide mouth, tight as a trap, loosened in a smile and Walsh could feel the man's magnetism.

"Ask him why he has come," Walsh told the interpreter.

"We are British Indians," Sitting Bull replied. "Our grandfathers were raised on British soil." He showed Walsh medals given them by the Shaganosh Father (King George III). He did not know why the White Father gave their country to the Americans, who had driven them from their homes. His voice became choked with hate as he spoke of Americans.

Did he wish to winter here and regain his strength, Walsh asked, and then in the spring return south to war upon the Americans?

No, no, Sitting Bull said, he had buried his weapons. His people were tired of war. For years they had not slept soundly. War had made the children forget how to play. He wanted peace.

Did he know that the Great White Mother had laws which all must obey? As long as they stayed, they must not kill, or steal, or bear false witness, or molest any person or property.

Sitting Bull and his sub-chiefs nodded assent.

That night Walsh slept in the camp of the dreaded hos-tiles and fell asleep to the rhythmic beat of their tom-toms and their chanting. He awoke to a gentle tapping on his lodgepole; Sitting Bull entered and sat by his bed. In the midst of rejoicing the chief was melancholy. He told Walsh he had known twelve days in advance that Custer was coming. He had sent flag men to seek a truce but Custer killed them. Then he baited a trap: emptied his teepees, lighted fires inside, hung up manikins made of blankets and rags that would stir as the fires set up air currents, and waited for Custer's attack on what he thought was a half-sleeping village. They came to kill us, Sitting Bull said, and now they call it a massacre.

In the morning as the police party was saddling up to leave, three Assiniboines rode in from the south. Walsh recognized White Dog, a noted fighter. The Assiniboine was leading five spare horses. "Stolen horses," Leveille whispered; they belonged to Father De Corby, a Catholic priest.

Walsh weighed his chances. "Arrest him," he ordered.

The sergeant and two men walked over to White Dog, holding forth excitedly in the midst of some sixty Sioux, and told him he was under arrest. White Dog stared at him incredulously. The horses were his, he declared. He grew scornful. He would not give them up. Nor would he submit to arrest.

Walsh had walked up behind the sergeant. Now he stepped in front of him. "White Dog," he said, "you say you'll not give up the horses, nor let yourself be arrested?" He put his hand on the shoulder of the Assiniboine. "White Dog, I arrest you for theft!" He nodded to his men. "Disarm them." Leveille seized the horses. In a moment the Assiniboines were helpless.

It had happened so quickly the Sioux had no time to think. They watched in astonishment as Walsh dangled a pair of leg irons in front of the startled Assiniboine. "Tell me where you got those horses, White Dog, or I'll put you in irons and take you to Fort Walsh."

White Dog saw that the Sioux would not help him now. He said he had found the horses lost on the plains. He did not know it was wrong to keep lost horses. Walsh could not prove that he lied but he took the horses and warned White Dog against stealing north of the line.

Humiliated, the proud Assiniboine could not contain his rage. As Walsh turned away he hissed, "I shall meet you again."

Walsh swung around. "What did you say?"

White Dog spat in defiance.

"Take back those words," Walsh said. "Take them back or you'll go to Fort Walsh."

Before the assembled Sioux, the overawed warrior apologized and the Sioux murmured amazement at the courage of these whites. Sitting Bull now understood what Walsh meant by the law: that each man alone, and not his tribe, stood accountable for his actions, even a chief of chiefs.

But as Walsh rode away he knew he was in for trouble. Last night had given him insight into the nature of Sitting Bull, strong, unyielding, bitter, implacably vengeful. He would never cease angling for allies to renew his war with the United States; there would never be peace in his heart toward whites. He undoubtedly planned to make lightning raids on American troops, then return, in which case the United States might demand reparation from Canada. At any time his pride or ambition might spark intertribal war and at the least sign of weakness he might turn upon the police. As long as Sitting Bull remained, the West was a powder keg which a single mistake by one Mountie could ignite.

Walsh had scarcely returned to his post when the first test came. Into Fort Walsh galloped Little Child, a popular

Saulteau chief who had always cooperated with the Mounties. He had been hunting buffalo with a small band, some fifteen lodges, about a day's ride away, when a large band of Assiniboines from Montana moved in beside them. Their chief, Crow's Dance, ordered Little Child to hunt under him. Little Child refused and prepared to move on. Whereupon Crow's Dance surrounded him with two hundred warriors and demanded that he obey. "I am a British Indian," Little Child said stubbornly. "This is British soil and the only chief I obey is the White Chief at Fort Walsh." Whereupon Crow's Dance tore down his lodges and shot nineteen of his dogs and threatened to kill the women and children. "Tell this to your red-coated friends," he had mocked. "Tell them to come to my camp. I will cut out the heart of the redcoat chief and eat it."

"We'll see about that," Walsh said. Quickly he mustered fourteen men, Leveille, a sub-inspector and since bloodshed seemed certain a surgeon. Walsh did not know yet what he would do but he had to act. This was precisely the kind of crisis that he had foreseen and feared.

All day and all night they rode on the trail of the buffalo-hunting nomads. Just before dawn Walsh and Leveille, riding ahead, breasted a hill and saw below them the silent Assiniboine camp. As Little Child had said, there were many lodges. Crow's Dance would be in the big one, the war lodge in the center. Walsh surveyed the surrounding hills, withdrew, and ordered breakfast.

"Kittson," he said to the surgeon, "I want you to take three men and climb that butte over there. Build a breastwork of stone that will hold them off if it comes to a fight.

The rest of you, listen to me. There's two hundred warriors asleep in that camp. We're going in there and we're going to arrest their chiefs. Don't fire unless I tell you, don't even draw your guns. Just do what I say and do it fast, no matter what it is."

The thirteen Mounties rode over the hill and between still shadowed tepees to the very heart of the camp. At a signal from Walsh they surrounded the war lodge. Walsh and a sergeant dismounted, crept inside, located Crow's Dance, clapped a gag over his mouth, seized him in an arm-lock and hustled him outside. Twelve other chiefs who were sleeping nearby were captured the same way and handcuffed. Then with the camp awakening in confusion they galloped to "Kittson's Butte," where, with the prisoners under guard, Walsh ordered a second breakfast.

Success, he knew depended on his next move. "Leveille," he said, "go back down there and tell the sub-chiefs I want them. Tell them their chiefs are responsible for your safety."

Leveille came back with the sub-chiefs, trailed by a mob of angry warriors. Walsh made them wait until he had finished breakfast. Then he sternly warned them they could no longer hunt in the White Mother's land unless they obeyed her laws. By her laws all men had the right to hunt as they pleased. Never again must they interfere with these rights. Impressed by his self-assurance, the Assini-boines quieted down. Next day, at Fort Walsh, Crow's Dance was sentenced to six months' hard labor. The story spread across the plains. Walsh was commended by Canada's Minister of the Interior, David Mills. The Fort Benton

Record gave him its highest accolade: "Custer's charge was not a braver deed." Most important, Sitting Bull had had a second lesson.

The great Sioux chief kept the law that year as he had promised Walsh. But the constant threat of his presence blocked the nation's westward growth. As Superintendent James Walker wrote from Battleford, "The very name of the Sioux strikes terror into the hearts of many of the settlers."

The Sioux were also causing unrest among the Canadian Indians; the buffalo herds dwindled yearly; competition for their ranges might at any time spark an intertribal war. Until the United States persuaded the Sioux to surrender and return, the situation, Macleod wrote Mills, would remain "explosive."

Ottawa passed on its arguments to Washington, where the British charge d'affaires passed them on to the U. S. Secretary of State. After much diplomatic quibbling between the three nations, after three U.S. cabinet meetings and much understandable stalling, the United States set up a commission to treat with Sitting Bull, headed, perhaps to ensure its failure, by Brigadier Alfred Terry, bitter foe of the Sioux.

Now Mills wrote Macleod to tell Walsh to persuade Sitting Bull that the U.S. cabinet were "upright men, willing and anxious to do justice to the Indians." Sitting Bull now trusted Walsh more than any other white man but this he simply would not swallow. Finally, as a favor to Walsh, he said he would meet with Terry, but only if the police were there to prevent Terry from murdering him.

Before the meeting could take place, the United States ordered the Nez Percys out of their ancestral home in the Wallowa Valley, giving them thirty days to move, this in fioodtime. Hitherto a peaceable tribe, they chose to fight. Three hundred and fifty Nez Percys outfought and outwitted some two thousand U.S. troops in a long running battle north until they were trapped in the Bear Paw Mountains, only a few miles from freedom. The one band that escaped reached Sitting Bull's camp on October 1, still bleeding from their wounds, to entreat his aid.

Walsh, keeping close touch with events to the south, called on the Sioux that day to find the camp in a state of wild excitement, tom-toms beating, runners coming and going, a war council plotting strategy to rescue the Nez Perces. The Sioux, Walsh knew, had the strength to wipe out the U.S. command in Oregon; allied with the Nez Perces, they would set the border aflame.

Walsh told them that they were committing suicide. "The man who crosses the boundary line from this camp," he said, "is our enemy. Henceforth we shall be to him, if he returns, what he says United States soldiers are to him today wolves seeking his blood."

Self-interest and friendship won over hatred and chivalry. Sitting Bull called off his campaign but Walsh needed all his tact to convince him once again to meet with Terry.

They met in Fort Walsh, in the officers' mess. The Americans, already seated, stood up as Sitting Bull, followed by twenty-four chiefs and a squaw, stalked into the room. Sitting Bull was smiling blandly. He ignored Terry's outstretched hand and rubbed in the snub by shaking hands all around with the Mounted Police. Then he and his followers squatted on buffalo robes and smoked their pipes, waiting with stony faces for Terry to speak.

Full-bearded General Terry, six feet six inches tall, had impressed the police as a gentleman. With obvious sincerity he read the President's offer: full pardon, food, clothing, cattle, their own reservation, but they must give up their horses and guns, their old free way of life. Sitting Bull's lip curled in irony. Spotted Eagle winked at Macleod, who reclined in an easy chair. Walsh rested on a table corner. The room reeked of smoke.

Terry finished. Sitting Bull rose, threw back his blanket, and began in his deep, emotional, orator's voice to list the wrongs done his people. Macleod, risking resentment at a breach of Indian etiquette, interrupted gently and asked that he give his answer.

Sitting Bull took no offense. He spoke for the first time to Terry. "For sixty-four years you have treated my people badly. ... I was kept ever on the move. ... I had to forsake my lands. . . . We had no place to go so I took refuge here." He paused to shake hands again with Walsh and Macleod. "This is a medicine house [the abode of truth]," he said, "and you come here to tell us lies. We do not want to hear them. You can go back. Take your lies with you."

As Sitting Bull spoke the chiefs grunted, "How, How." In turn they stood up and echoed his truculence. Then crowning insult Sitting Bull introduced the squaw. The interpreter strained to catch her few diffident words. He hesitated, then lowered his voice. "She says, General, you won't give her time to breed!"

Terry smiled with composure. "Am I to tell the President that you refuse his offer?"

"I told you what I meant," Sitting Bull snapped. "That should be enough. . . . You can take it easy going home." It was another insult. The Sioux, he meant, would not harm them.

Still holding his smile, Terry turned to Macleod. "I think we can have nothing more to say to them, Colonel."

"I suppose you are right," Macleod said.

Sitting Bull had clearly closed his mind against going back. Later that night he told Macleod and Walsh: "Once I was rich, Americans stole it all. Why should I return? To have my horse and my arms taken from me? I have come to remain with the White Mother's children."

Walsh never ceased trying to change the mind of his unwelcome visitor. The Queen, he warned, could give the Sioux nothing but safety. When the buffalo had gone she could not feed them.

But the brooding chief was adamant. "I will not go to the gift-house [a reserve]. I am a hunter and will hunt as long as wild game is on the prairie. When the buffalo are gone I will send my children out to hunt mice, for the prairie will furnish me food as long as I live. I do not want to live in a house. Some of my people have gone to live in houses. Where are they now? Many are dead."

In three capitols diplomatic controversy accumulated in the files marked "Sitting Bull." His braves dipped south of the border hunting buffalo, and invasion rumors (started

by speculators who wanted to sell the Army land for a new base in Benton) kept tension high among Montana settlers. The United States urged that Canada either adopt the Sioux or expel them. Canada pressed the United States to offer the Sioux more generous terms. "She could not undertake the responsibility of restraining them," Mills warned, "should they . . . attack the United States settlers. . . General Terry disagreed. "Whether on Canadian soil or immediately south of the line, Sitting Bull," he wrote, ". . . appears to be under the control or influence of that Canadian official [Walsh]."

It was control, but of a precarious sort. When a band of Sitting Bull's high-mettled braves stole some horses from Wood Mountain and the single Mountie on guard fired over their heads to try to stop them, Sitting Bull, in irascible mood, sent Walsh a note of displeasure at this "attack."

Edwin Allen, the sub-inspector who had helped Walsh capture Crow's Dance, rode out to his camp and was met by the chief himself, riding a handsome cream-colored pony.

"I want the horses your braves stole," Allen stated.

Sitting Bull smiled contemptuously. "You are few. What can you do?"

"I would take even your horse if I thought it was stolen," Allen declared.

Sitting Bull's eyes flashed challenge. "It is!"

Allen smiled disarmingly, edged his mount closer, suddenly yanked Sitting Bull off his saddle onto the ground and snatched the cream-colored pony's bridle. His men closed in behind him and they all raced away.

That night in the post with the Sioux circling outside, firing and yelling, the Mounties put their wills in the safe and buried it under the floor, turned out the lights and waited. The attack did not come. Sitting Bull, outbluffed, allowed himself to be pacified by Chief Broad Tail, who counseled discretion.

The danger heightened in summer, 1878. Agents of Louis Riel, exiled idol of the Metis, began to appear among the Indian tribes. He had told a trader: "These people [Indians and halfbreeds] are just as were the children of Israel, a persecuted race deprived of their heritage. But I will redress their wrongs. I will wrest justice from the tyrant. I will be to them a second David."

Rumors reached Walsh that halfbreeds and Indians were forming a grand alliance to drive the whites from the plains and found a new empire. He tracked down a covenant signed by Red Stone, South Assiniboine chief. Crowfoot had been approached, had been told that if the Blackfoot joined so too would Sitting Bull. Crowfoot declined and informed the police.

Quietly Walsh went to work. All traders were ordered to stop selling guns and to lock up their ammunition. He convinced Red Stone to desert Riel. He won pledges of fidelity from Sitting Bull, Long Dog, Broad Tail, Dull Knife, Stone Dog, Spotted Eagle and Black Moon. The conspiracy lagged; the Indians had food; they trusted the police.

Next year they were starving. The buffalo herds had vanished; they were never to see the buffalo again. From Fort Calgary, Inspector Cecil Denny reported to Macleod: 'T have sent meat to parties [of Blackfoot] who were eating grass to keep themselves alive. I hope I have your approval. . . ." Once proud warriors ate their dogs, hunted on hands and knees for gophers and mice, grubbed for roots.

The predicament of Walsh at this time, caught between friendship and duty, for he had explicit orders not to give food to the Sioux, is reflected in a report to Macleod: "I was forced to make small issues of food to save their lives. Following this, want of food and the eating of diseased horses, an epidemic appeared. . . . The conduct of those starving and destitute people, their patient endurance, their sympathy and the extent to which they assisted each other, their strict observance of law and order would reflect credit upon the most civilized community."

But a starving people grow desperate. The police walked a knife edge now, and the strain was telling on Walsh. One day a small rancher came in to say that the Sioux had run off his horses. Sitting Bull himself had been with them, he said.

Walsh was angry. He tracked down the Sioux chief and told him to give up the horses or he'd let the U.S. Army cross the border after him. It was a tactless threat which he could not have backed up. But Walsh was tired and suffering from erysipelas. Sitting Bull, too, was angry. But he had the horses brought in.

It was only a few weeks later that he turned up at Fort Walsh, backed by many braves. Walsh was still sick, overworked, and irritable. He looked at Sitting Bull bleakly. "Find out what he wants," he told his interpreter.

"We want provisions," Sitting Bull said blandly. "Also tea and tobacco."

Walsh slapped his hands on his desk and shoved himself upright. "Why damn you!" he exploded. "You know you're American Indians. You've no right to be here at all. You've caused me nothing but trouble!" He glared at Sitting Bull. "You seem to think all white men are afraid of you. You're wrong. If you want to stay here you'll have to behave yourself. We've got our own Indians to look after without being bothered by you. Get your damned provisions at the trading post."

Only the great Sioux's eyes showed his wrath. "Take heed, Wahonkeza. You are speaking to the head of the Sioux nation."

"I know who you are all right," Walsh said. "You're a damned horsethief."

Slowly Sitting Bull raised a menacing finger to point at Walsh. "Not even you, Wahonkeza, can talk to me like this."

"Are you threatening me? Are you trying to bluff the Mounted Police?" shouted Walsh, who had so often bluffed the Indians. "Behave yourself or I'll throw you out."

Sitting Bull uttered an animal snarl and snatched at his revolver. Before he could get it out of his belt Walsh had one hand on his arm. The other hand seized his breech-clout. Walsh heaved. Sitting Bull arced backwards and lit outside. The Mountie leaped after him and as Sitting Bull started to rise, Walsh kicked him squarely on the rump.

The Indians stared, stupefied by the sudden disgrace of their chief. A moment before they would have killed Walsh at a word from Sitting Bull. But now as he rose to his feet, black with rage, two of his followers pinned his arms as he tried once again to shoot Walsh, and they held him until he had ceased to struggle.

Walsh ran to the barracks. "All right, men. Bring your rifles. There may be trouble."

They hurried outside, two dozen men. Sitting Bull was leading a horde of mounted Sioux toward them.

"Get two poles from the hay corral," Walsh told the interpreter. "Lay them across the trail between us and the Indians. . . . Now tell them not to come past those poles. The first one who does will be shot."

The Indians moved in a body along the trail to the poles. They showed no fear of the leveled rifles. Expert in-flghters all, they knew they could drop from their horses and fire almost as fast as the Mounties could pull trigger. But they knew their first shot would sever forever their bond with Canada, their last sanctuary, their last hope of peace. They stopped at the poles.

Walsh stepped forward. "Good. You're wise. Now you must do more. I don't want you hanging around here. Clear out. I'll give you five minutes." The Sioux paused uncertainly, wheeled their ponies and galloped away.

Deep snow that winter (1880) made hunting impossible. Sickness spread from lodge to lodge. The dreaded smallpox appeared in the Qu'Appelle district and Constable Holmes, a one-time medical student, risked his life repeatedly to bring it under control. The lone corporal at Norway House on Lake Winnipeg, David Smith, fought twin epidemics of scarlet fever and diphtheria.

This was the desperate testing time of Mounted Police policy. But the Indians respected, above all else, courage and selflessness. Despite the blow Walsh had struck at his pride, Sitting Bull renewed their friendship.

Walsh tried to impress on the Sioux chief that the White Mother would not help him. The Sioux had one choice, he told Sitting Bull, stay and starve, leave and live. "So long as there remains a gopher to eat, I will not go back," said Sitting Bull.

Hardening his heart, Walsh dealt with the lesser Sioux chiefs, thus weakening Sitting Bull's prestige. As they loved their children, he told them, they should return home. Twelve hundred left that winter. Sitting Bull, troubled, proclaimed: "Those who wish to go back may do so. I will place nothing in their way."

But he himself would not give up. He traded his horses for flour, he traded his personal ornaments and the worn-out spoils from Custer's defeat. Gaunt, stoical, iron-willed, he waited, hoping that somehow Walsh could convince the Great White Mother to take him as her son.

Not until 1880 did he realize that further resistance would end forever his waning power. He gave his war bonnet to Walsh and wrote to relatives in Dakota: "Once I was strong and brave; my people had hearts of iron; now I will fight no more forever. My people are cold and hungry. My women are sick and my children are freezing. My arrows are broken and I have thrown my warpaint to the winds."

Yet it took another year of persuasion by followers, halfbreed friends, police to overcome his suspicion, pride, and fear for his personal safety. It was 1881 July 19 when he rode wearily into Fort Buford, Montana, and surrendered to Major Brotherton of the 7th Infantry. "I wish it to be remembered," he said, gazing through and past Brotherton, "that I was the last man of my tribe to give up my rifle." Nine years later, as high priest of a new messianic cult, he was shot and killed while resisting arrest by Indian police.

This tragic enigmatic man had subjected the Mounted Police to six years of unrelieved nerve-racking tension. But in return for trouble he gave them their first international fame. He coupled their name with his in news reports, and every act of Sitting Bull, the conqueror of Custer, was front-page news in America. It was Sitting Bull, that able ambitious Sioux from North Dakota, so consciously tending his own fame for posterity, who was midwife to the legend of the Mounties.


1ATE in March 1885, a telegraph boy wheeled into the j driveway at Earnscliffe, the stately Ottawa home of Sir John A. Macdonald. The Prime Minister was giving a small dinner party. He read the telegram and slid it under his plate without comment. Only one guest, a senator, noted his look of pain and surprise. As the senator left, Sir John walked to the door with him. "Mac," he told the senator, "there's the mischief to pay in the Northwest." The half-breeds had attacked the Mounted Police at Duck Lake, he said. It was the start of the Northwest Rebellion, Louis Riel's ill-starred attempt to found a Metis nation.

Macdonald, whom the M6tis called "Old Tomorrow," was reaping the fruit of his ignorance of the West. He had failed to give the M6tis, "those miserable halfbreeds," legal claim to their farms along the South Saskatchewan River. He had failed to heed police reports that warned of rising anger as incoming whites filed deed to Metis lands. "If you wait for a halfbreed or an Indian to become contented you may wait till the millennium," he had joked.

Under Gabriel Dumont, "Prince of the Prairies," a barbarian general of extraordinary skill, the halfbreed army, reinforced by a few dissident Crees, won three victories but lost the war. Had the Metis risen before the Sioux disbanded, or before the railway was nearly complete, had Dumont not been restrained again and again by Riel, whose piety and patriotism were constantly in conflict, most important, had Riel's agent succeeded in swaying Crowfoot then the prairies, so soon to become the "breadbasket of Canada," might have remained for years a guerilla-infested no man's land.

But Superintendent (later Major General, Sir) Sam Steele dragged Riel's negotiator out of Crowfoot's council lodge, and when a government officer, a volunteer from Calgary, Major General Thomas Strange, sent a messenger to ask if Crowfoot could keep his young men in order, Crowfoot replied: "I have the young men in hand. None will join the Crees."

The faith Macleod (now a magistrate) and Crowfoot held in each other had been the cornerstone of peace throughout the era of Sitting Bull. Now, in the twilight of Indian power, in this last organized effort by plains people to keep the land and life to which they were bred, that bond held firm.

The rebellion did one thing. It finished the world's longest railway. The Canadian Pacific was broke when the government's need to move troops west forced Sir John to grant the line a new government loan. The CPR's master builder, dynamic William Van Home, generously shared his triumph with the Mounties. "On no great work within my knowledge," he wrote Commissioner Acheson Irvine, who had taken over from Macleod, ". . . has such perfect order prevailed."

Van Home had in mind that in that final construction year, 1885, he had five thousand men laying track, their wages a target for gamblers, prostitutes, bootleggers and thieves, their presence a constant irritation to Indians who knew from experience that settlers would follow along the "white man's trail." One noted war chief named Piapot, leading two hundred Crees and Salteaux, camped squarely in the path of the hated smoke-belching iron horse. Work on the great transcontinental railway halted abruptly.

Two Mounties Corporal William Wilde and a constable were given the mission of moving Piapot. With their forage caps at a jaunty angle they cantered into his camp through a jeering mob of armed half-naked horsemen.

"I bring orders from the Great White Mother," Corporal Wilde said crisply. "Strike camp and journey north to your own hunting grounds."

The braves hooted scornfully. The squaws laughed. Pia-pot turned his back to show his indifference and contempt.

The corporal took out his watch. "You have fifteen minutes to move."

Squaws screamed at the two impassive redcoats sitting silently on their horses in front of Piapot's big tepee. A hundred howling warriors milled around them, jostling their mounts, firing over their heads. Inside his tepee Pia-pot sucked his pipe in malevolent satisfaction. Now and then the corporal looked at his watch. Piapot began to fidget.

"Time's up!" Wilde said. He tossed his reins to the constable, dismounted, and strode toward Piapot. The Mountie stood in the tepee entrance looking down at the chief. Then, with a kick, he knocked out the keypole. The lodge collapsed upon Piapot and his harem. As the warriors watched incredulously the Mountie strode through the camp, kicking down lodge after lodge. Piapot had either to kill him or move. He chose discretion.

Such tales spread the fame of the force around the world. They drew adventurers from Rugby and Cambridge, from the backwoods of Quebec, from the wars in Afghanistan, Egypt and South Africa. Halfbreed log birl-ers shared k.p. with the best blood of the Old World. There was Constable H. Rosenkrantz, whose mail bore the Danish royal coat of arms. There was Corporal John Temple, twelfth Baronet of Stowe, amateur birdwatcher, bronc-buster and descendant of Lady Godiva. Serving alongside Inspector Francis Dickens, youngest son of the English novelist, was an Irish revolutionary, a runaway circus clown and the brother of a Yorkshire baronet.

They guarded the excursion trains that were bringing out new settlers. They showed newcomers how to protect their farms against the fires that raced across the prairies faster than any horse could run. They organized log-cutting bees to build schoolhouses. With stubby pencils they jotted down the new cattle brands, the condition of the roads and crops, marriages and births. In the blazing heat of summer they held court lying flat on their backs in the meager shade of a buckboard; in winter they carried mail to isolated camps and brought out the bachelors whom loneliness drove insane. They tracked down Indians who rustled the white man's "tame buffalo" and stopped whites from cutting Indian timber. They kept the West free of Indian wars, feuds, lynchings, highwaymen. When one imported gunslinger threatened to shoot up the town of North Portal, the local Mountie reported:

On the 17th instant, I, Corporal Hogg, was called to the Hotel to quiet a disturbance. The room was full of cowboys and one Monaghan, or Cowboy Jack, was carrying a gun and pointed it at me, against Sections 105 and 109 of the Criminal Code. We struggled. Finally I got him handcuffed and put him inside. His head being in bad shape I had to engage the services of a doctor, who dressed his wound and pronounced it not serious. To the doctor Monaghan said that if I hadn't grabbed his gun there'd be another death in Canadian history. All of which I have the honor to report,

C. Hogg, Corporal

To which his superior officer added a memo:

During the arrest of Monaghan the following Government property was damaged: door broken, screen smashed up, chair broken, field-jacket belonging to Corporal Hogg spoiled by being covered with blood, wall bespattered with blood.

They were a rough-faced, stern-eyed lot. Slouched on a cayuse in sweat-stained buckskins they looked like border ruffians. But their horses always showed grooming, their saddles were always clean, and at table in a hotel they had all the elegance of the smartest Imperial trooper. They drank hard, fought, swore and gambled, but they were known all the way to Texas as men who couldn't be bluffed, bribed, bulldozed or browbeaten. As the Fort Benton Record observed a remark soon to be famous "they fetched their man every time." And they fetched him alive; it was three months in cells with hard labor for bringing him in dead. From the Red River to the Rockies the scarlet-coated rider was the symbol not only of law but of fair play.

Gold drew them north in 1895, twenty men handpicked by Inspector Charles Constantine. They sailed around the Alaskan coast to the mouth of the Yukon River, upriver 1500 miles to Forty Mile Creek, and here on the permafrost of an unmapped wilderness so hard to reach that prospectors called it "the other end of nowhere," they built the first far-northern Mounted Police Post and collected customs duties from U.S. traders in the gold camps. The following year Constantine scrawled his name on three mining permits, three claims on Bonanza Creek filed by prospector George Carmack. The gold ran as high as $150 a pan, boasted Carmack, launching the greatest gold rush of all time.

It was hard to hold the men, Constantine said afterward. They were making a dollar a day, the price of a candle. Their food was mainly pork and beans and the influx of fortune hunters left little time to hunt. "I had three tables in my room," Constantine said, "and a different kind of work on each. I walked from one to the other to rest."

The trickle of strangers swelled to a torrent clergymen, murderers, bankers, thieves, Arabs, Chilians, Kanakas, men of every kind and creed they came by the thousands. They surged off the steamer at Skagway, they scaled the mountain passes. "Climbing the golden stairs," they called it, holding each other's coats, an endless human chain floundering through the snow. They died of exhaustion, cold, bullets, despair. They drowned in the rapids that swept their dinghies, barges, rafts and canoes downriver to Dawson. Still they came. And only a handful of Mounties, now needed desperately for every function of government, deserted Constantine and Sam Steele, who succeeded him.

They piloted pilgrims through the rapids, dug them from under snowslides, fed them, nursed them, arbitrated their squabbles, and escorted their shipments of gold to Skagway. They built a chain of police posts along the river, each post an information bureau, sanctuary and jail. They saved many lives by a system of boat inspection and many more by enforcing sanitation laws in Dawson.

They cracked down hard on drunkenness, bunco games in the gambling dens, and obscenity in the theaters. The fines they imposed so ruthlessly they used to finance hospitals.

At the height of the rush, Skagway, Alaska, bossed by a cultured killer, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, was the toughest town on the globe. But across the border in Dawson, the hub of the great gold camp, life was so peaceful a miner didn't dare chop wood on Sunday. "Life and property are safer in Dawson than in London," wrote a clergyman to the London Times. And this never ceased to amaze ex-U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp, who kept bar in Nome during the Gold Rush. "If I'd had a couple of them red-coated fellers behind me," the celebrated gunfighter once mused, "we'd have kept Tombstone clean for sure."

In 1904, Edward VII honored the North-West Mounted by conferring the prefix "Royal" upon them. Their patrols, by then, had reached Hudson Bay and the shores of the western Arctic. Here, camped five years on a bare and desolate rock called Herschel Island, Sergeant Francis Fitzgerald broke the riotous raping rule of the whaling captains over the Eskimos, and froze to death bringing mail from McPherson to Dawson in 1911. Meanwhile, Con-stantine, now a superintendent, was conquering muskeg, forest, mountain torrent and chasm to cut a backdoor route to the Yukon, a graded road of logs out of Fort St. John, foreshadowing the present Alaska Highway but built without machinery in three years by 31 men, a staggering feat that drained Constantine's vast store of vitality; he died in 1912, four years after his road was abandoned.

The Mounties pushed east and north, half policemen, half explorers. They were on hand to give information, dogs, rations and refuge to the great explorers Amundsen, Rasmussen and Stefansson. And Constable Alexander Lamont, nursing Stefansson through typhoid, caught the fever himself and died.

Again in 1920 their achievements changed their name. Canada needed a federal force to cope with her postwar growth. The RNWMP became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Commissioner moved from Regina to Ottawa. But tradition flowed on unbroken and the frontier saw no change.

In 1929, Inspector Alfred Joy, sometimes called "Byrd of the Arctic," made an epic patrol of exploration through the Parry Islands and turned down an invitation to be Byrd's Antarctic adviser; coming out of the north to be married at forty-five years of age, Joy died on the eve of his wedding day in Ottawa's Chateau Laurier, worn out by his Arctic travels. Eleven years later, the RCMP schooner St. Roch, skippered by Sergeant Henry Larsen, sailed north from Vancouver bound for Halifax, and eight Mounties spent the next two years locked together on an 80-ton wooden ship, inching through ice across the top of the world.

In the history taught recruits such feats are stressed. There have been many of them, obscure but arduous patrols in which men faced the unknown, endured, survived or died, alone. They show, as no other stories do, the dynamics of the ideal, the lifestuff of both legend and tradition: an adherence to duty that does not need to be forced by regulations, spurred by ambition, sustained by

the living legend

an audience; the acceptance of a challenge wherein the thing to be mastered is self and the only reward a sense of fulfillment. Such a patrol was the hunt for the killers of Harry Radford and Tom Street.


HARRY RADFORD, a young American sportsman and biologist, came into the north in 1909, the holder of a permit to shoot a buffalo for a U.S. museum. The last wild herd roamed the timber north and west of Fort Smith, protected by the Mounties. With their help he secured his head.

This success ("My big wood bison is, of course, the largest wild animal of which record exists ever killed on the American continent, North or South America") led Radford to view the north as the path to an early reputation. He persuaded Tom Street, a husky young Canadian outdoorsman, to join him in an expedition across the Barren Lands, one of the world's last unexplored regions and one of the most formidable. Street, affable and easily impressed, was excited by the prospect of bringing back rare specimens of wild life, flora and fauna.

They set out in 1911. Reports drifted back of Radford's highhandedness with the natives. Then no more was heard until 1913, when the moccasin telegraph news passed along from native to native told of two whites slain on the sea ice of remote Bathurst Inlet. Their killers were said to be a tribe of stone-age Eskimos, so primitive that they still used arrowheads of barbed bone driven by four-foot bows made of musk-ox horns and caribou sinew.

A police patrol, commanded by Inspector Walter Beyts, sailed from Halifax on the RNWMP schooner Village Belle. Storms raging down the coast of Hudson Bay turned them back. It was 1914 before the patrol could be landed at Chesterfield Inlet, and another year before Beyts, an experienced northern traveler, could erect an advance post on Baker Lake to the north. Twice from this post Beyts tried to cross the Barrens the winter of 1916, and twice the game-scarce Barrens turned him back.

The exhausted Beyts, soon to die of pneumonia, was replaced in 1917 by Inspector Frank French, a handsome, vital man, son of a Mountie and nephew of the force's first commissioner. French was serenely confident. With Sergeant Major Tom Caulkin, a tough Arctic veteran, four Eskimos and twenty-five dogs, he headed northwest for Bathurst Inlet on March 21.

They were soon into country of which their guides knew nothing. They wandered off course, their compass needle gyrating uselessly from unknown mineral deposits. The land was featureless, bare except for the tiny ancient willows that thrust their stunted limbs up through the snow-crust, an immense awesome desert strewn with rubble from the Ice Age, huge boulders that reared up everywhere, knocking the mud from their sled runners, forcing them to stop frequently. They could gauge their direction only by the snow ridges formed by prevailing winds. They could find no fuel to light a warming fire and every night, red-eyed with weariness, lashes and mustaches caked with ice, they built a snow house, unpacked, staked the dogs out, fed them, and while they cooked the day's only hot meal over the primus stove, tried to dry their clothing, filling the igloo with steam.

On April S the gales subsided. The sun came out and melted the crust which, refreezing, reflected the light like polished steel. Magenta and purple patches danced in front of the travelers' eyes, became pinwheels and rockets of orange fire. For three weeks they were snowblind, fighting the pain as of grit beneath their eyelids. Then fog closed in. A range of high bare hills forced them to detour. But they were lucky in traveling part way with migrating caribou, and on April 24 they stumbled onto a camp of Eskimos who directed them to the coast. By May 7 they were on polar ice, moving west, and on May 14 they sighted a cluster of igloos and skin tents on an island at the mouth of Bathurst Inlet.

The women fled indoors as the strangers approached. The men, who had been sealing at the floe edge, ran to intercept the patrol, spears and snow knives half lifted.

French raised his hand overhead in the universal sign of peace. "Tell them we come in friendship," he told his interpreter. The headman slowed his pace and his Mongoloid features creased in a smile. "Welcome," he said. "Welcome to our camp."

These were Cogmollocks, Stefansson's famed "blond Eskimos." They had gray eyes and their parkas were cut in a queer swallowtail design. After Caulkin handed out gifts, French asked, "Do you know of two white men who passed this way, said to have been killed?"

The headman nodded. He brought forward a woman and three men, eyewitnesses to the murder of Radford and Street. The moccasin telegraph had not lied. With the candor of children the Eskimos told what had happened:

About five winters ago, two white men came from the south, and they had their Eskimos with them, and they came to an island on the salt called Kwogjuk. One was named Ishumatak (the man who does the thinking Radford) and the other Kiuk (meaning wood, a tribute to Street's strength). Ishumatak was bad* but Kiuk was good. The three Eskimos who came with the white men went away again to the south and the white men could not speak to us and we did not understand them but they made us understand a little by making signs.

They wanted two men to go away with them to the west. Two men, Harla and Kaneak, were going with them, but Kaneak's wife was sick, she had fallen on the ice and was hurt, and Kaneak did not want to leave her there. The white man called Ishumatak got very mad and ran at Kaneak and hit him with a whip. The other man (Street) tried to stop him. The white man was shouting all the time. He dragged Kaneak to the water edge. The other white man went with him. They were going to throw Kaneak in the water. Everybody was frightened the two white men were going to kill Kaneak.

Two men, Okitok and Hulalark, ran out and stabbed Ishumatak. He fell on the ice. The other white man ran off shouting towards the sleigh and Okitok ran after him and caught him and Amegealnik stabbed him with a snow knife. He was running towards the sleigh, he tried to get a rifle. The two white men were covered over and left on the ice. I do not know what happened to their property. . . .

I do not think this would have happened if the white man had not beat Kaneak with the dog whip, or if we had understood the white man.


Witness: F. H. French, Inspector X his mark

French questioned every Eskimo in the district for a month but neither he nor Caulkin, who spoke Eskimo, could find any flaws in this story. French's orders had been to make no arrests if the killings had been provoked. His concern now was to get back. The patrols' supplies were gone. Their health was poor from the diet of half-raw, half-spoiled meat. They had already traveled more than two thousand miles on foot and the trip back across the Barrens loomed in their minds like a nightmare.

They heard of a trading post to the west and they pushed toward it over the rotting sea ice, sloshing along knee-high in icy water. A June snowfall masked the cracks and once Caulkin fell through. Hungry and sick with dysentery from eating polar bear meat, they finally reached Bernard Harbor, a Hudson's Bay trading post. Here they rested, waiting to go out with the company boat. "It has been the hardest trip I have ever made. . . ." French wrote in his diary. "We suffered much from cold and exposure."

The boat never came. They moved back along the coast, fishing for salmon. By October 16 there was snow enough on the ground to travel and they started their long return journey.

Movement over the newly formed sea ice was slow and dangerous. Autumn gales tore at their deerskin clothing, opening rents in the worn seams. Reaching Bathurst Inlet, they shot six caribou, which took them through a stretch of soft deep snow to the bare rock hills. It was now December. The weather was calm and cold. Stillness enveloped the Barrens, a quiet so intense that the faintest noise carried for miles and the caribou, forewarned, were seldom seen. The only sign of life was the great gray Barren Land wolves that stalked them from a distance and stole one dog in the night.

By December 17 the dogs were without food and weakening rapidly. The patrol was close to starvation. They shot ten of the weakest dogs and skinned them to feed the others. "A hard thing to do," French wrote in his diary. "In this country a man grows to love his dogs."

They came across a herd of musk ox in time for Christmas dinner, but in two weeks they were starving again. They were smoking tea leaves. Their skin clothing was ragged. Their hands and faces were frozen. A bitch in their team produced seven pups which the dogs at once devoured. The men stumbled along, weak, numbed by the 75-below-zero cold. A storm was blowing up. There was no sign of game. "It looks like our last patrol," French wrote on January 20.

Next day a band of deer crossed their trail and a kill of ten took them through to Baker Lake. "After more than ten months," French wrote, "we're safe at last." They had traveled 5153 miles on foot through an unmapped prehistoric land. They had brought the five-year quest to a finish: to prove three Eskimos innocent. Shortly afterward French was invalided out of the force.

In his diary the man who had started out so confidently wrote: "Could I have foreseen or realized the immensity of that journey, could I have but visualized its hundreds of perils and hardships, had I but a glimpse of the gaunt spectre of hunger, cold and starvation, and nameless fear for my party, then I might have decided that life was too short to be walking side by side with fate. But duty must be done."

It was a rare but understandable break-through of feeling into a Mountie's laconic recording of fact. But, with the last sentence, French comes down to earth. Perhaps he realized suddenly that he had no choice in this matter. No glimpse of the future could have spared him his hardships.

Even in the Arctic, where a Mountie is free from superiors and nagging regulations, where a self-reliant policeman has the power of an emperor and half the men who go in do not want to come out even in the Arctic no Mountie escapes his concept of duty. The force demands all, even up to the Mountie's life. And perhaps, in the end, this is what man really wants: to be used to the full, to be tried to the utmost, to be free only to realize all that he is.

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