Where Gumbo Was #388
Gumbo was visiting the Fort Museum in the small southern Alberta town of Fort MacLeod. Congratulations to George G and PortMoresby, who recognized where Gumbo was.
This past summer I made a point of exploring some of the smaller communities and attractions in rural southern Alberta. It was convenient and safe, so instead of fighting CoVid regulations by overzealous governments around the world I thought I'd just explore close to home.
A place I've driven past a number of times was the Museum of the NorthWest Mounted Police in Fort MacLeod. Fort MacLeod is quite close to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and Waterton National Park (both UNESCO World Heritage sites) but for most of us this town is a place to drive through while heading elsewhere and itself not a destination. I'm glad I spent the day here as the town has personality and charm, and I enjoyed my visit.
The Fort Museum resides in a fort rebuilt in the 1950s, designed to resemble the original fort constructed a few miles downriver in 1874. The focus of the museum is to provide a look at role of the Mounties in the old Canadian West.
(Diaorama of the original Fort MacLeod at the Fort Museum)
The NorthWest Mounted Police (NWMP) was founded in 1873 when Canada was still a very young country, to provide law and order in the developing western provinces. The first group of mounties was sent to Alberta from Dufferin, Manitoba, a difficult journey that lasted several months. They were sent to stop the illegal flow of whiskey and guns to Canada's aboriginal population from neighboring Montana, to provide order and security and enforce the USA-Canada border (thereby protecting Canadian sovereignty). They ended up building a fort similar to the current Fort Museum near the Oldman River. Fort MacLeod is named for Captain MacLeod, the commander of the first NWMP division.
(View of the Oldman River from the Fort Museum)
In 1920 the NWMP morphed into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), still the primary law enforcement agency in Canada. Canadians are proud of the Mounties and the force is generally respected throughout the country. In many smaller communities the RCMP provide the only police service available.
(Officer's quarters -- note the photo of Queen Victoria)
The museum tour is self-guided. The main museum features many exhibits focusing on the history of the NWMP in the area, day-to-day life of the Mounties, challenges they faced in performing their duties, their uniforms and weapons, etc. I found the old photos and displays informative and interesting. Life here was primitive and hard, with few diversions. Not unlike tales of the US Cavalry to the south (but with a colder and harsher climate in which to survive).
From the museum you enter a courtyard framed by several buildings. It was in this courtyard that military drills would have been held. One of the buildings framing the courtyard was Kanouse House, the fort's store/trading post.
A separate building features displays by the First Nations people, looking at the many tribes who lived in Alberta (especially the Blackfoot), their handicrafts and culture, and even some photos taken of them.
The Museum is even home to an old horse-drawn ambulance....
During July and August, a special recreation of the Mounty's Musical Ride takes place at the Museum. It features synchronized riding movements on horseback to the sound of special musical arrangements. Fort MacLeod was the birthplace of the famous RCMP Musical Ride, their first display taking place in 1876. Fort Museum’s NWMP Musical Ride is not the official RCMP Musical Ride which is much larger and more elaborate; it is a recreation using local riders, mostly teenagers working a summer job.
The Fort Museum is located a two hour drive south of Calgary and is open most days from early May until late October every year. Please check with the Museum for hours before making the journey here.