More than a Musical Ride: the RCMP 'March West'

By Jen Wiebe
SNN Editor-in-Chief
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

Imagine yourself sitting high in the saddle, riding west, recreating the historic ride of the Mounties.

It's the 'chance of a lifetime,' says Laura Miller, a teacher from Garden Valley Collegiate who will be taking part in the ride.

The historical recreation of the March West in May 1999 promises to be much smoother than the original version back in the 1800's. The purpose of the ride is to celebrate the RCMP's 125th anniversary as well as to educate youth and Canadians about our history.

John A Macdonald, the Prime Minister in 1874, sent two hundred seventy-five men out west across Canada. This mission was to an effort to make friends and keep peace with the natives as more settlers moved in and "invaded" their territory. Six troops, named from "A" to "F," experienced extreme hardships and troubles while on their journey. Animals died and
some crew members left the group in order to regain their health.

One hundred and twenty-five people will be re-enacting the journey, beginning May 8, 1999. Starting in Emerson, Manitoba, the first group will enjoy 18 days of riding until they reach the stop in Saskatchewan. There they will turn back and the next group will carry on. The final destination will be reached on July 28 in Alberta.

As a part of the Garden Valley Teacher Association Representatives on the Local planning committee, Miller was involved in the decision that the community would sponsor a rider to represent Winkler and the surrounding area for the trip. The offer was opened up to the public and in Manitoba alone, 10,000 people applied for the spot.

But few people met the qualifications such as having a horse, being physically fit enough to participate, and being able to receive time off from work. Three hundred people are currently on the waiting list if one of the riders is unable to go.

Miller and Sherra Penner, a recent GVC graduate, were both chosen to participate.

"Sending a teacher and a young person speaks very highly of the community," says Miller.

One hundred twenty-five riders will join in each of the three phases of the March West. Twenty five of those participants will be RCMP officers and the other 100 will be civilians such as Miller and Penner. One hundred seventy-five other riders will be joining in as part-time riders for two to ten day stretches. There will be a maximum of three hundred riders at a time, not including the wagons coming along on the road.

Asked why she would leave her family and work for so long, Miller replied, "Horse people don't even ask. There is a passion felt for your horse and riding in nature. It's sort of spiritual."

Miller's father will be driving her truck and trailer during the eighteen days and she is looking forward to spending that time together with him. Miller's two son's will also be camping with her on the weekends when they don't have school.

Miller says she is looking forward to many aspects of the trip.

"My time with my horse, meeting new people and just experiencing it all."

Yet with the good may come the bad; riders are nervous about what the weather will be like.

"It could be snow or 80 degrees outside," says Miller, "or flooding."

In the case of spring floods and washed-out roads, there are alternate routes planned.

As a teacher, Miller is nervous about leaving her students with someone else for that amount of time, as well as spending so much time away from her family.

"The boys are excited that Mommy is going to be on TV and on the news and in the newspapers," says Miller. "I don't think it has sunk in yet just how long I'll be away. Another thing that is hard is leaving my husband to do the single-parent thing along with the rest of the chores at home."

Miller's will return home from the ride on May 27th. Would she like to go all the way to Alberta?

"If nothing was holding me back," she says, "I would do it."

The community has been very supportive of Laura Miller and Sherra Penner.

"I hear lot's of 'congratulations' and 'way to go' from people," says Miller. She is pleased to be a part of "the biggest RCMP venture since the original March West."


 Back to News