Serving the Nation
Call of the Yukon
In 1894, all eyes turned to the Yukon, that virtually unknown corner of northern Canada. More and more prospectors were pouring into the area and concerns were raised that the indigenous inhabitants were falling victim to liquor, and that Americans in the region were taking the law into their own hands, forming "miners' governments." While the Yukon itself was not disputed as Canadian territory, the boundary with Alaska to the west had not yet been determined and accepted by both countries. The federal government decided to send two mounted policemen, Inspector Charles Constantine and Staff Sergeant Charles Brown to the Yukon to investigate the situation, and for the first time, collect customs dues on goods brought into Canada by American prospectors.
Following Constantine's return to the Prairies, a much larger expedition was planned for the following spring. Eighteen mounted policemen were selected and dispatched with Constantine to Fort Cudahy on the Yukon River. Here they constructed Fort Constantine. When not hauling logs, they enforced Canadian laws, collected customs, and made their presence known in a dozen different ways. Then, in 1896, the discovery of gold sparked the great Klondike rush of 1898.
List of names of NWMP volunteers for Yukon service, November 19, 1899
Keeping a man in the Yukon was an expensive proposition, but a police presence in the gold fields was needed. By 1898, over 250 men, one-third of the total force, were in the Yukon. As they had done on the Prairies, the Mounted Police ruled with a firm, but flexible, hand. Above all, they were concerned about the safety of those entering the Yukon. They carefully recorded the names of those who entered the territory, monitored miners' movements into the interior, patrolled, and visited every mining operation, however remote or isolated.
It was in the Yukon, more than anywhere else, that the mounted policeman acquired the popular image of the rugged individual, the red-coated Mountie who faced and overcame sundry obstacles in his pursuit of law, order and justice.