Learning About History from Murals in Morden


You know what? I never did finish writing about the little trip Andrew and I took to Morden over spring break. IT’S TIME.

I’ve been accused of writing mostly stuff about the East Reserve. GUILTY! (Frustratingly so.) The thing is, I actually do have more to say about West Reserve stuff. I just need to actually get to it. So here we go.

When we were staying at Bella’s Castle (which is a fantastic experience, btw) I woke up early to do a little sightseeing on foot, and I came across this on the side of a building near the train tracks:

You probably can’t read that tiny print. Here, I’ll type it out for you.

The above poster says:

“Est. May 23, 1873, and led by Lt. Col. G.A. French, the North West Mounted Police consisting of 22 officers and 287 constables and subconstables marched into history from Ft. Dufferin (Emerson) on July 8, 1874 to bring law & order to the Canadian West.

By the turn of the century thousands of settlers streamed west and in 1904 with 8 divisions and 84 detachments, the NWMP were policing a territory stretching from the U.S. border to the Arctic and across western Canada. In that year King Edward the VII bestowed the prefix ‘royal’ and the force became the Royal North West Mounted Police. It soon became obvious the enforcement of dominion laws must be the responsibility of a dominion force. In 1920, the RNWMP became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Because the Canadian Government were advised that the indians favoured scarlet, the original NWMP force were outfitted in that colour, although the styles varied. Some men wore loose fitting scarlet Norfolk jackets, others wore scarlet serge frocks with blue collars and cuffs. They wore steel-grey or flesh-coloured breeches, black Wellington-top boots and spurs, while buckskin gauntlets and dull white cork helmets or pillbox hats. Some gold lace on a jacket distinguished officers from other ranks. Each man was armed with a .450 Deane and Adams revolver and a .577 calibre Snider-Enfield carbine.”

I feel like that whole statement above is fraught with violence. (Also I have questions about the phrase “the indians favoured scarlet” — in what way? How did they discover this and what did they actually mean by “favoured”? Also I will have to learn about what these “dominion laws” were. There is so very much I do not know.) With all that we are learning and unlearning about what the treaties actually were and how the government pushed Indigenous people off their land in order to fill it with white Europeans… you can see the violence, from the opening statement about bringing “law & order to the Canadian West” to the very last words which detail what kind of firearms each officer carried.

Now, as we wandered the streets of Morden, we encountered another mural which seems to illustrate this. It’s all about “the march west” establishing the boundary. I know that a lot of the government’s actions back then was about reinforcing the Canada-U.S. boundary because the U.S. was eying it too. But none of the boundary stuff was mentioned in the above writeup.

There is one little detail near the top of this mural:

Later, we visited the site of this mural, which was apparently created from the earliest known photograph of the area, and/or a photograph of this wagon train. (I’ll post about that soon!) The lone teepee is also on that cairn. It must have been in that photograph. I would love to see the original picture if it still exists somewhere in some archives. (It’s going on the list!)

Related posts: 

Fort Dufferin: The Other Mennonite Landing!

Help, I’m in Morden!

Getaway to Rendezvous & Bella’s Castle!

It’s MORE-den You Expect!