History of Fort Calgary

Fort Calgary is at Mohkinsstsis, the ‘Elbow’ at the heart of Blackfoot territory, where we walk in the footsteps of the Blackfoot, Stoney Nakoda, Tsuut’ina, Métis and other Indigenous peoples who have used this area for thousands of years.

Fort Calgary is the birthplace of the modern city of Calgary and a National Historic Site; it is the confluence where our past, present, and future come together.

In the summer of 1874, 150 men of the North West Mounted Police marched west across the prairie from Dufferin, Manitoba to establish a series of forts. Part of the Force established Fort Macleod to the south and spent their first winter in a harsh and unfamiliar environment, aided by the Blackfoot. The following year they built Fort Calgary.

The NWMP, now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), came as part of a larger national policy to establish Canadian sovereignty and bring Canadian law and order to the west, to stamp out the whiskey trade, and to prepare the way for the treaties that would open the land for settlement.

In 1877, the government signed Treaty 7 with the Blackfoot Nations of the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani, and with the Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut’ina Nations. This Treaty covers most of southern Alberta and is still in effect today.

Between 1875 and 1914, the Fort grew into Calgary Barracks and became the centre of a flourishing community. Fort Calgary was a police administration centre, a community symbol of law, order and prosperity, a hospital, a refuge, a social centre, and a focal point for settlers, ranchers and business.

In 1914, Fort Calgary was sold to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway who later sold the site to the Canadian National Railway. For the next 61 years, Calgary’s origins were hidden under a railway yard and storage area. In 1974, thanks largely to the efforts of Alderman John Ayer, The City of Calgary bought the site and returned the city’s birthplace to the public domain.

Over the years, the Fort has regained its position as a centre for Calgarians to think about our past and plan for the future. We are currently working to redevelop our exhibits in dialogue with local Indigenous groups, in order to tell a more complete story of our collective history, in recognition that we are all Treaty people.