The Popular Hero
The Northwest Rebellion and its Aftermath
Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, 1878; NWMP Headquarters until 1882
In the spring of 1885, Métis and their First Nations sympathizers, frustrated and angry with a federal government that seemed to ignore their plight, erupted in revolt. The North West Rebellion or Resistance was quickly put down by the North West Field Force, consisting of Canadian militia and members of the NWMP. Louis Riel, leader of the resistance, was hanged and more than a dozen First Nations fighters were imprisoned for treason and other crimes. It was a sad affair and many lives were lost on both sides.
Sir Frederick Middleton, commanding the North West Field Force, had nothing good to say about the NWMP. Fortunately, his recommendation to the government that the force be disbanded fell on deaf ears. In the aftermath of 1885, the Force was increased by 500 to 800. With the expected increase in settlement at the railway's completion, responsibilities of the Force were redefined, more patrols were instituted, and detachments were established all across the Prairies.
By the time the NWMP rode their horses through Jubilee London, a small NWMP contingent had arrived in the Yukon in advance of the Gold Rush, which would soon sweep the continent and much of the world into a frenzy. In the fall of 1899, the South African War broke out, attracting over 250 NWMP men as volunteers with the Canadian contingents aiding the British. Many others joined the South African Constabulary, organized to police the Transvaal, under the leadership of Sam Steele.
The Mounted Police acquitted themselves well as policemen, as a paramilitary force, and as the embodiment of law and order in the Klondike Gold Rush. Their contributions were recognized when, in June 1904, King Edward VII approved the addition of the word "Royal" to their title, and the force became the Royal North West Mounted Police.
For more information on the NWMP's formation and service, see Serving the Nation.