Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


The Cypress Hills, rising as outliers in the northern portion of the Missouri Coteau and dominating the mixed xeric grasslands of southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, have a vast human story of their own. They are certainly worthy of their own history book. This new edition of Hildebrandt and Hubner's 1994 book has been "rewritten and reshaped" to retell the story of the prehistory, aboriginal, early trade, and mounted police history of the region. Originally serving as historians and guides of the Fort Walsh National Historic Site, the authors were well placed to provide it. The Cypress Hills presents a systematic overview of the archaeology of the region, its history in the context of the buffalo hunt, the brief but tumultuous whiskey trade in the hills, and the arrival of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1874. A new chapter has been added on the experience of the Nakoda who frequented these hills, later adhered to Treaty 4, and were subsequently relocated from their chosen reserve by the apparent double-dealings of the Canadian federal government.

The book has strengths and weaknesses. It can certainly provide an introduction to the history of this fascinating region. The numerous aboriginal groups that seasonally came and went from these hills are described, as well as the buffalo robes and provisions they pursued nearby. The commercialized fur and pemmican trade organized by the Hudson's Bay Company and Montreal companies are also covered. There is very good detail on the expanding merchant capital and whiskey trading in "Whoop-Up Country" organized out of Fort Benton. One of the book's best chapters is devoted to the 1873 massacre of a Nakoda camp perpetrated by Benton wolf hunters near Abe Farewell's whiskey post, the famous "Cypress Hills Massacre." Another overviews the arrival of the NWMP shortly after the massacre and the founding of Fort Walsh. A chapter on the treaty era includes the protracted negotiations that took place between the NWMP and Sitting Bull's Wood Mountain camp.