Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 33:3 (Summer 2013)


© 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska


Gordon E. Tolton’s detailed description of the activities of the Rocky Mountain Rangers adds new research to an earlier book of his published in 1994. The Rangers existed for just three months and saw no real action, but through their history one can learn much about southern Alberta during the North-West Rebellion of 1885 that is often ignored in standard accounts focusing on Saskatchewan and the Frog Lake area of Alberta.

The first part of The Cowboy Cavalry places the Rangers’ activities of 1885 in the larger context of Louis Riel and the Métis, and especially the Aboriginal groups of southern Alberta: the Peigan, Blood, and Blackfoot peoples, who were then on the verge of starvation. When trouble broke out in the spring of 1885 there was panic among the settlers and ranchers of the area, but the restraining leadership of Crowfoot, and especially Red Crow, kept any large-scale violence at bay. Nevertheless, John Stewart, a well-connected former militia officer turned rancher, raised a unit of three mounted companies of ranchers and former North-West Mounted Police officers from around the town of Macleod.