Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park
Archaeological Site DhNo-1
Links and documents
1887/01/01 to 1887/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park consists of a 5.48 hectare parcel of land adjacent to a small creek in the Wood Mountain upland, approximately 45 kilometres southwest of the Town of Assiniboia and 35 kilometres north of the United States border. The park features two reconstructed buildings, historic trails and archaeological remains related to a North-West Mounted Police post that operated from 1887 to 1918.
The heritage value of Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park lies in its association with the North-West Mounted Police and the Canadian government’s efforts to maintain order and assert its sovereignty in the West. In 1874, the newly-formed North-West Mounted Police were sent west to curtail the whiskey trade, establish peaceful relations with First Nations and perform general policing duties. In the fall of that year, the Police established a detachment at a former Boundary Commission depot at Wood Mountain. The detachment operated intermittently at that location until 1887, when it was moved approximately 300 metres southeast to the site of the present-day provincial park.
During the late 1870s, Wood Mountain Post was at the centre of an international diplomatic crisis. Following their 1876 victory over Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Greasy Grass/Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull (Ta-tanka Yotanka) and thousands of Lakota Sioux fled across the border to the Wood Mountain area. The American government, concerned about the presence of a hostile force on its border, sought the return of the Sioux to the United States and their transfer to reservations. The Canadian government, not willing to bear the costs of supporting the refugees, and fearing hostilities between “Canadian” First Nations and their traditional enemy, also wanted the Sioux to return to the United States. There were, however, no practical means to compel their return. For its part, Britain, still responsible for Canada’s foreign affairs, did not wish to further impair already poor relations with the Americans, but did not want to appear to be acquiescing too easily to their demands. In the middle of these interests were the North-West Mounted Police. Largely due to North-West Mounted Police Superintendent James Walsh’s diplomatic skills and the relationship of mutual trust and respect he developed with Sitting Bull, the Lakota’s five years in Canada passed peacefully. At Walsh’s urging, and faced with hunger brought on by declining bison herds and the Canadian government’s refusal to provide rations, the refugees eventually began to return to the United States. Sitting Bull and a few hundred followers were some to the last to leave in 1881. A handful of Sioux remained to permanently settle and ranch in the Wood Mountain area.
Wood Mountain Post was closed in 1883, then reopened when the North-West Resistance broke out in 1885. Two years later, the post’s dilapidated buildings were abandoned and new facilities were constructed on the current site of the provincial park. For several years, the Wood Mountain detachment continued as one in a string of posts responsible for border control, collecting customs duties and conducting criminal investigations, predominantly cases of cattle rustling and horse thievery. By 1918, with a provincial police force in place and other federal agencies responsible for customs and immigration, Wood Mountain Post was closed for the final time.
Heritage value also resides in the Park’s educational role. In the 1960s, a barracks and a kitchen/storehouse were rebuilt on their original locations, and the foundations of other former buildings were outlined. Public archaeology projects in the early 1990s revealed construction techniques, identified additional site features such as trails and cellars, and interpreted post activities through analysis of a large sample of recovered artifacts. Today, the Park’s reconstructed buildings, archaeological features and interpretive displays form the basis of a public interpretation program that presents the history of the North-West Mounted Police and the Sioux at Wood Mountain during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Province of Saskatchewan, The Parks Act, May 26, 1986.
The heritage value of Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park resides in the following character-defining elements:
-elements that reveal information regarding North-West Mounted Police use of the site, including artifacts; cultural features such as trail remnants, foundations, cellars, fences and refuse areas; and the spatial relationships and environmental context of the archaeological remains;
-elements that speak to the park’s association with the history of the Wood Mountain region, such as its location in a coulee alongside Wood Mountain Creek, its largely unaltered landforms and remaining natural vegetation;
-elements related to the park’s educational role, including replica structures that interpret the form, function and spatial relationships of the police post’s buildings; and public access to the park for interpretive purposes.
Government of Saskatchewan
Parks Act, s. 4
1887/01/01 to 1918/12/31
1874/01/01 to 1887/12/31
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Security and Law
Function - Category and Type
- Police Station
- Historic or Interpretive Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Conservation Branch,
Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport,
3211 Albert Street,
Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 5W6
Cross-Reference to Collection