Views from Fort Battleford
Constructed Visions of an Anglo-Canadian West
The myth of the Mounties as neutral arbiters between Aboriginal peoples and incoming settlers remains a cornerstone of the western Canadian narrative of a peaceful frontier experience that differs dramatically from its American equivalent. Walter Hildebrandt eviscerates this myth, placing the NWMP and early settlement in an international framework of imperialist plunder and the imposition of colonialist ideology. Fort Battleford, as an architectural endeavour, and as a Euro-Canadian settlement, oozed British and central Canadian values. The Mounties, like the Ottawa government that paid their salaries, "were in the West to assure that a new cultural template of social behaviour would replace the one they found." The newcomers were blind to the cultural values and material achievements of the millenia-long residents of the North-West. Unlike their fur trade predecessors, the settler state had little need to respect or accommodate Aboriginal people. Following policies that resulted in starvation for Natives, the colonizers then responded brutally to the uprising of some of the oppressed in 1885. Hildebrandt's ability to view these events from the indigenous viewpoint places the Mounties, the Canadian state, and the regional settlement experience in an entirely different spotlight.