Posted by Tina Yarbrough
2017-09-18 Rotary Buzz - Noon  Meeting
Canada 150 Speaker Series
Speaker - Dr. Rod MacLeod on Sam Steele - Norsemen
Lou opened the meeting at 12:00 pm.
  • Tickets for Rotary Cares Raffle still available and can be picked up from Ted.
Dr. Rod MacLeod, Sam Steele
Fort Steele.  We have all heard of it, and we know named after a highly decorated Officer, Sam Steele.  What most people don't know is how he was one of many who helped put together our new country in the first half of the century.
Sam came of age just at the start f the Confederation of Canada.  He joined the militia and went west with the Red River Expedition.  It was in the aftermath of Riel's successful resistance that created the province of Manitoba.
Sam qualified as an officer by this time, but he enlisted as a private so that he could learn more.  When his enlistment ran out, he returned to Ontario and joined the tiny Canadian regular army.  
The Northwest Mounted Police was created in 1873 and Sam was the first one to sign up.  He joined as a sergeant and quickly established himself as the horse training expert for the NWMP, and he took part in the epic march west in the summer of 1874.
In 1876 he organized the logistics for signing the Treaty 6 and the next year for Treaty 7 negotiations.  Later that year, he persuaded Sitting Bull and his followers, who had fled North to Canada after wiping out Custer and Little Big Horn, to return to the US.  Because of all the good Sam had been doing, he got promoted to Inspector in 1878.
Early 1880's, the CPR started construction.  Sam was identified as the best troubleshooter in the NWMP and put in charge of maintaining order as the construction crossed the prairies and into BC.
Rebellion broke out in 1885 and Sam was called back to Calgary where he successfully organized and led a unit called Steele's Scouts.  He was promoted to Superintendent and his first important command of "D" and "K" divisions at Battleford. 
The BC government got themselves into trouble with the Kutenai people in SE BC.  Sam was ordered with D Division to go sort things out.  Fort Steele was built near Cranbrook, and through skillful diplomacy, Sam convinced the Kutenai chief that the unfair land settlement offered by BC was a better alternative than armed conflict.  After almost a year, Sam returned to Fort Macleod where he would take over as CO of the largest NWMP post outside HQ in Regina.
In 1898, The gold rush was underway, and the scale of it caught the Canadian government completely unprepared.  There were stories of administrative chaos, corruption, typhoid fever and looming starvation among miners.  Ottawa needed decisive action to restore the situation.  
Sam was given command of the MP contingent of more than 200 men and worked closely with the new commissioner, William Ogilvie, to clean things up.  After three weeks, dodging bullets from the Soapy Smith Gang that controlled the town, he set up customs posts on the Chilkoot and White passes.
With more than 30,000 miners getting ready to move down the Yukon River, Sam imposed his regulations to prevent them from drowning in the river and starving when they got to the diggings.  Every individual needs to bring at least a ton of food, and all boats had to pass inspection.
Ogilvie appointed Sam Chairman of the License Commission, which regulated all businesses in Dawson and the Health Commissioner.  With the power behind him, Sam physically cleaned up the town of Dawson.  Within a year, Dawson was healthy and law-abiding.
1899 the Boer War broke out in South Africa, and Sam was offered command of Lord Strathcona's Horse.  He continued to stay in SA another five years after his one-year enlistment ran out.  Sam was offered command of one of  5 divisions of 2000 men in the peace-keeping unit called the South African Constabulary.
When Sam returned to the Canadian army is was as Lt. Col. Steele.  He became CO of Military District 10 which took in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario east to Thunder Bay.  His job mainly involved training the militia in building armories, rifle ranges, training grounds and other military facilities. 
In 1914, was promoted to Major General when the war broke out.  He took command of the Canadian 2nd Division when it went over in 1915.  Unfortunately, British Chief of Staff, Lord Kitchener, thought Sam was too old for active command (Sam was 68 and experiencing health problems); instead, he was made CO of the British Army's Eastern District. 
Sam remained in that position until 1918 when the Canadian government retired him.  He was knighted Sir Sam Steele as a consolation prize.  His health deteriorated steadily, but he managed to see the end of the war.  Sam died a few months later, just after his 71st birthday.
Sam was very ambitious, sometimes to a fault.   He was vain, coloring his hair at age 50 and there were periods in his life where he drank heavily.  But Sam Steele missed hardly any of the significant events of the first half century of Confederation and played a leading role in several of the most important.
He was poorly treated at times by various Canadian governments and occasionally reacted bitterly.  But he remained a patriot and never doubted the worth of the new nation he was building.
In 2006, the family of Sam Steel put all of his diaries and letters on auction for $1.8 million.  U of A Head Librarian, Ernie Ingles put together a consortium of donors and bought the collection.  The Collection came here in 2008.  The uniforms, medal and other artifacts are split between the Glenbow and the RCMP Museum in Regina.
Lou adjourned the meeting 1:15 pm.
Next meeting - Noon Meeting, November 6, 2017, 
Canada 150 Speaker Series
Speaker - David Goa on Dr. Chester Ronning 
Camrose Resort and Casino