Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

By William R. Morrison | Go to book overview

10. Patrols and Patrolling

PATROLLING warrants a short chapter of its own, especially because on some parts of the frontier it was not only the chief, but the sole activity of the detachments. Police patrols fell into two categories -- routine and special. Routine patrols were carried out on a schedule, to deliver mail, to make a regular visit to a community, to obtain monthly or weekly supplies, to check on game, 1 or for some other usual purpose. Special patrols were sent out for particular reasons -- to investigate crimes, to render aid in individual instances, to explore a certain area, sometimes with a view to the establishment of a new detachment.

"Patrol" always suggests the picture of a policeman and his dog-sled, but in police reports it describes movement on official business by any means, from foot to steamboat to aeroplane. Most of the regular patrols and the important special patrols on the northern frontier were carried out by dog team at first simply because this was the best method of travel over the greater part of the year. Later, sled patrols over the Territories were outdistanced by other kinds. 2 But this occurred only as the north ceased to be a frontier, in the nineteenth-century, non-mechanized sense of the word.

Most of the northern police detachments employed one or more Natives as dog team drivers; they were Inuit, Indian, or Métis, depending on the location of the post, and they generally lived with their families in a small building belonging to the detachment. The Natives, especially the Inuit, generally did much of the actual work of driving the sleds, which were often their own, the technique of hitching and handling the dogs being determined by the area of origin of the driver. Very often, in

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