Major General Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, MVO (January 5, 1851 – January 30, 1919) was a famous member of the North West Mounted Police.
He joined the local militia as a teenager and fought against the Fenians at the Battle of Ridgeway. He was sent west first to fight the Red River Rebellion of Louis Riel, but arrived after the Métis had surrendered. Steele had long been fascinated by the west, devouring the works of James Fenimore Cooper in his youth. He was especially interested in the First Nations, and spent his time in the west learning from them and the Metis. However he was recalled from Manitoba and based in Fort Henry in Kingston for the next few years.
He was chosen to be one of the first members of the NWMP, being only the third officer sworn in. In 1873 he returned to Fort Garry with the new force and was put in charge of drilling the new recruits. Over the next few years he crisscrossed the prairies, before being assigned to NWMP headquarters to train new recruits.
In 1881 he was assigned to meet with Sitting Bull, who fresh from defeating General Custer had moved into Canada and was demanding land for his people. Steele and a few officers met them and reached a peaceful agreement. This action won Steele great acclaim in the newspapers of the United States and was the beginning of his role as a public figure.
In the North-West Rebellion Steele was dispatched with a small force. Missing the Battle of Batoche Steele and his force were sent to move against the last rebel force lead by Chief Big Bear. Steele and his two dozen Mounties defeated Big Bear's force at Loon Lake in the last battle ever fought on Canadian territory. The contributions of the NWMP to putting down the rebellion went largely ignored and unrewarded, to Steele's great annoyance. Steele spent the next ten years assigned to Fort McLeod, and at age 41 married Maria Harwood, eventually the couple had three children.
In 1898 he was sent north to the Yukon to succeed Charles Constantine with policing during the Klondike Gold Rush. Initially, he was in charge of the customs posts at the Chilkoot Pass and White Pass, where he created the rule that no one would be allowed to enter without a ton of goods. Steele and his force made the Klondike Gold Rush into one of the most orderly events of its kind in history and made the police force famous around the world, which ensured its survival at a critical time when the force's dissolution was being debated in parliament.
In 1900 he was second in command in Lord Strathcona's Horse, a Canadian light cavalry unit sent to South Africa during the Boer war and did so with distinction. Steele, however, disliked greatly what he was ordered to do by the British, which included burning towns and moving the populace to concentration camps.
Steele was knighted in 1918 and was made a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, and Member of the Royal Victorian Order.
Canada's fifth tallest mountain, Mount Steele, is named after him.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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