Forty Mile: Canadian Sovereignty and the Police
Members of the first Mounted Police detachment in the Yukon. Inspector Charles Constantine is in centre to the right of the little boy.
Provincial Archives of Alberta, B2230
Mounties on firewood detail outside the palisade walls of Fort Constantine, winter of 1895-96.
RCMP Museum, Regina
After years of ignoring this remote corner of the country, Canadian authorities finally realized that an important gold-bearing region was in danger of being taken over as U.S. territory. The number of American miners in the area, uncertainties about the exact location of the Yukon-Alaska border, plus the church’s plea for government intervention on behalf of the First Nations people, brought the North-West Mounted Police to Forty Mile. After a reconnaissance trip in 1894, Inspector Constantine established the first Yukon detachment at Fort Constantine in 1895.
Constantine had been ordered to look into the condition of First Nations people in the Fortymile area but he was instructed not to give any messages “that the Government would do anything for them as Indians.” In other words, the Canadian government would not officially recognize First Nations’ rights to their land or compensate them for the disruptions caused by the flood of newcomers.
Although they settled some mining disputes, the Mounties’ main work was building and heating the many large buildings in their compound. Their most important role came a year later in 1896 when, by being on the spot, they were able to forestall the chaos that might have resulted during the Klondike Gold Rush.