Abstract

This paper compares the levels of violence and law breaking on the cattle frontiers of the northern Great Plains of North America and the Northern Territory of Australia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that various conditions peculiar to frontiers such as sparse settlement, gender imbalance, the absence of infrastructure, the weakness of traditional Old World institutions, and racism lowered respect for authority and made law enforcement extremely difficult. The author suggests that the truth of the latter thesis is bolstered by the fact that at the same moment in history the people in these two societies discarded conventional rules and values as they built their pastoral industry—literally a world apart.

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NOTES

1. Warren M. Elofson,
Frontier Cattle Ranching in the Land and Times of Charlie Russell: A Re-examination of the Free-Range Cattle Ranching Era in Montana, Southern Alberta, and Southern Saskatchewan
(
Montreal
:
McGill-Queen's University Press
,
2004
),
63
67
. For a discussion of the importance of environment and tradition, see, Terry Jordan,
“Does the Border Matter? Cattle Ranching and the 49th Parallel,”
in
Cowboys, Ranchers, and the Cattle Business: Cross-Border Perspectives on Ranching History
, ed. Simon M. Evans et al. (
Boulder
:
University Press of Colorado
,
2000
),
1
10
; Jordan,
North American Cattle-Ranching Frontiers: Origins, Diffusion, and Differentiation
(
Albuquerque
:
University of New Mexico Press
,
1993
),
267
307
. In Australia, rather than blizzards and cold, the greatest climatic challenge to pastoralists was drought during long, hot, dry seasons (“drys”) punctuated by flooding during seemingly endless “wets”; also the crocodiles and dingoes were a different threat to livestock than wolves and grizzly bears. Moreover, the terrain in the Canadian Territory is mostly more level than in the foothills and high country regions in which most of the ranching industry on the northern Great Plains took an enduring hold.
2. See, for example, Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew Graybill, eds.,
Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories
(
Durham
:
Duke University Press
,
2010
); Carol Higham and Robert Thacker, eds.,
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(
Calgary
:
University of Calgary Press
,
2006
); John M. Findlay and Ken S. Coates, eds.,
Parallel Destinies: Canadian-American Relations West of the Rockies
(
Seattle
:
University of Washington Press
,
2002
).
3. Henry Reynolds,
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(
Sydney
:
University of New South Wales Press
,
2006
). Some have disputed Reynolds's findings. His main antagonist is Keith Windshuttle. See, Windshuttle,
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(
Sydney
:
Macleay
,
2003
). See, also, for example, John Connor,
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(
Sydney
:
University of New South Wales Press
,
2002
); Robert Manne, ed.,
Whitewash: On Keith Windshuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History
(
Melbourne
:
Black
,
2003
); Robert Foster and Amanda Nettelbeck,
Out of the Silence: The History and Memory of South Australia's Frontier Wars
(
Kent Town
:
Wakefield
,
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). Frederick Jackson Turner,
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(
New York
:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
,
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), which is one of many editions of the paper
“The Significance of the Frontier in American History,”
which Turner originally presented to the American Historical Association in
1893
. Russel Ward,
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(
Melbourne
: Oxford University Press,
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(
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:
Oxford University Press
,
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).
4. Frank Richard Prassel,
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(
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:
University of Oklahoma Press
,
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),
220
43
. In the bigger towns a meager tax base was also a problem.
5.
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,
July
1
,
1887
;
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,
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1
,
1887
; Gary A. Wilson,
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(
Havre
:
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,
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),
62
; Truman McGiffin Cheney with Roberta Carkeek Cheney,
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(
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:
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,
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),
46
47
.
6. The figures for each year are posted in the
Southern Australia Government Gazette
.
“Aborigines,”
Northern Territory. Report of the Government Resident for the Year 1910
, South Australian Government and Administrators Reports, Northern Territory Archive Service, Darwin, Northern Territory (hereafter NTAS). By World War I the population of southern Alberta and Assiniboia rose to about one hundred thousand inhabitants and the population of Montana to about two-and-a-half times that. From the late 1880s onward, the cattle numbers oscillated between two hundred thousand to well over six hundred thousand; horses between 8,000 and 24,500; and sheep between 57,000 and 100,000. Duncan Ross,
“The Northern Territory Pastoral Industry, 1863–1910”
(
PhD diss.
,
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,
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158
60
. The South Australian censuses of 1891 and 1901 estimated between twenty-one and twenty-three thousand Aborigines respectively in the Northern Territory.
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(
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,
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,
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.
12
;
Mar
.
5
,
12
,
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,
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Frontier Cattle Ranching
,
67
68
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, ed. M. G. Niblett (
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),
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.
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, ed. Jim Davis (
Calgary
:
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,
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),
48
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:
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,
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24
.
11. Quarterly Report of G. R. McMinn,
July
7
,
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, Adelaide, GRS-1, Incoming letters of the Minister Controlling the Northern Territory,
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1910
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South Australian Government Resident Report
,
15
;
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p.
2
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26
,
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;
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May
1
,
1880
;
“To the Editor,”
Mar.
11
,
1882
;
“Law Courts,”
June
19
,
1882
,
Northern Territory Times
;
“Opium Traffic in the Northern Territory,”
Kalgoorlie (Western Aus.) Miner
,
Oct.
5
,
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;
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Burra (South Aus.) Record
,
Aug.
5
,
1887
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Aboriginal Labour and the Cattle Industry: Queensland from White Settlement to the Present
(
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;
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Advertiser
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,
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.
13. Charles M. Russell,
Trails Plowed Under: Stories of the Old West
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),
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,
85
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,
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68
;
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Calgary Daily Herald
,
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17
,
1906
.
14.
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Northern Territory Times
,
May
28
,
1887
. For organized Chinese gambling and organized Chinese resistance to gambling, see,
“The Northern Territory, Gambling Societies and Chinese Labor,”
South Australian Chronicle
(Adelaide),
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5
,
1891
;
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Northern Territory Times
,
July
26
,
1884
.
15. James Gray,
Red Lights on the Prairies
(
Scarborough
:
New American Library of Canada
,
1971
); Abbott and Smith,
We Pointed them North
,
103
106
; Char Smith,
“Crossing the Line: American Prostitutes in Western Canada, 1895–1925,”
in
One Step Over the Line: Toward a History of Women in the North American Wests
, ed. Elizabeth Jameson and Sheila McManus (
Edmonton
:
University of Alberta Press
,
2008
),
241
60
; Frank W. Anderson,
Sheriffs and Outlaws of Western Canada
(
Calgary
:
Frontier
,
1973
),
48
; Hugh A. Dempsey,
The Golden Age of the Canadian Cowboy: An Illustrated History
(
Calgary
:
Fifth House
,
1995
),
56
; Paula Petrik,
No Step Backward: Women and Family on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier, Helena, Montana, 1865–1900
(
Helena
:
Montana Historical Society
,
1987
),
25
58
.
16. Barbara James,
No Man's Land: Women of the Northern Territory
(
Sydney
:
Collins
,
1989
),
61
82
; Wilson,
“A Force Apart,”
255
;
“George Byng Scott's Reminiscences,”
18
; Gray,
Red Lights on the Prairies
,
183
; Abbott and Smith,
We Pointed them North
,
108
,
145
46
; P. Foelsche to E. W. Price, Aug. 3, 1882, GSASRO.
17.
“Our Annual Visitation,”
Northern Territory Times
,
June
25
,
1881
; P. Foelsche to G. R. McMinn, July 7, 1883, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook 1886–1924, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS.
18. Ann McGrath,
Born in the Cattle: Aborigines in Cattle Country
(
Boston
:
Allen & Unwin
,
1987
),
91
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Frontier Justice: A History of the Gulf Country to 1900
(
Queensland
:
University of Queensland Press
,
2005
),
137
; Elofson,
Frontier Cattle Ranching
,
124
26
; W. L. Hutton,
Aug.
15
,
1889
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19.
“To the Editor,”
Northern Territory Times
,
July
16
,
1881
; Quarterly Report of G. R. McMinn,
July
7
,
1883
, GSASRO; McGrath,
Born in the Cattle
,
91
.
20. Silvia Van Kirk,
Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670–1870
(
Norman
:
University of Oklahoma Press
,
1980
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Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country
(
Vancouver
:
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,
1980
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We Pointed them North
,
124
25
.
21. McGrath,
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,91; Paul Hasluck,
Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs 1925–1965
(
Melbourne
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,
1988
),
50
. For Aboriginal circumstances in Western Australia and Queensland, see, Gordon Briscoe,
Counting, Health and Identity: A History of Aboriginal Health and Demography in Western Australia and Queensland, 1900–1940
(
Canberra
:
Aboriginal Studies
,
2003
).
22. McGrath,
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,
92
93
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White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940
(
Lincoln
:
University of Nebraska Press
,
2009
). For the modern debate on Native land claims, see, Louis A. Knafla and Haijo Westra, eds.,
Aboriginal Title and Indigenous Peoples: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
(
Vancouver
:
University of British Columbia Press
,
2010
). Arthur C. Ashwin,
“Recollections of Ralph Milner's Expedition from Koperamanna to the Northern Territory with Sheep and Horses in 1870/71, with An Account of His Subsequent Experiences in the Northern Territory,”
1927
, pp.
11
12
,
1079
, SLSA.
23.
“Another Murder in the Victoria River District,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Oct.
21
,
1892
;
“A Triple Murder,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Feb.
19
,
1905
.
24. P. Foelsche to G. R. McMinn, July 7, 1883, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS; Spencer Baldwin,
“Preliminary Report on the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory,”
Bulletin of the Northern Territory
, no.
7
,
July
1913
, p.
16
, Department of External Affairs, Melbourne, British Library, London;
“To the Editor,”
Northern Territory Times
,
May
1
,
1880
;
“Opium Traffic in the Northern Territory,”
“Opium Trade in the Northern Territory,”
“Horrible Murder of Chinese by the Blacks,”
Northern Territory Times
,
June
10
,
1882
; Alfred Giles,
“The First Pastoral Settlement in the Northern Territory,”
pp.
106
107
, PRG 1389/2, SLSA.
25. Quarterly Report of G. R. McMinn,
July
7
,
1883
, GSASRO. For one of the few prosecutions of white violence, see, R. Stott to N. Water, Jan. 5, 1909, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS. C. Power to P. Foelsche, Oct. 24, 1886, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS;
“Police Court,”
Northern Territory Times
,
July
31
,
1880
,
Dec.
18
,
1886
;
“The Victoria River Tragedy,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Mar.
10
,
1905
;
“Blacks Again,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Mar.
3
,
1905
;
“Execution at Fanny Bay,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Aug.
18
,
1899
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4
vols.,
1
:
226
, NTC 363.2094 MACL, NTAS.
26. Peter Forrest,
They of the Never Never
(
Darwin
:
Northern Territory Library Service
,
1990
),
5
; Archer Russell,
A Tramp-Royal in Wild Australia: 1928–1929
(
London
:
Jonathan Cape
,
1934
),
254
55
; R. G. Kimber,
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(
Darwin
:
State Library of the Northern Territory
,
1991
),
14
.
27.
Adelaide Register
,
Jan.
10
,
1890
, quoted in Kimber,
End of the Bad Old Days
,
16
; Amanda Nettelbeck and Robert Foster,
In the Name of the Law: William Willshire and the Policing of the Australian Frontier
(
Adelaide
:
Wakefield
,
2007
); Foelsche to John Lewis, June 5, 1880, Letters from Paul Foelsche, 1875–1913, Lewis Family Papers, PRG 247/2, SLSA.
28. Abbott and Smith,
We Pointed them North
,
113
20
; Stan Gibson,
“An Uncelebrated Anniversary,”
http//www.dickshovel.com/parts.html (accessed
Aug.
1
,
2013
); Hugh A. Dempsey,
“Cypress Hills Massacre,”
Montana Magazine of History
3
(Autumn
1953
):
1
9
.
29. For a comparison of mounted police approaches to Native subjugation in Australia and Western Canada, see, Amanda Nettelbeck and R. Smandych,
“Policing Indigenous Peoples on Two Colonial Frontiers: Australia's Mounted Police and Canada's North-West Mounted Police,”
Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology
43
(
Aug.
2010
):
356
75
. Andrew Graybill,
“Rangers, Mounties, and the Subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, 1870–1885,”
Great Plains Quarterly
24
(Spring
2004
):
96
. In the Mounties' defense I would mention that they were known at times to side with the Indians against corporations like the Canadian Pacific Railway, see,
“In Town and Out,”
Macleod (Alberta) Gazette
,
July
1
,
1882
.
30.
“Charcoal,”
Macleod Gazette
,
Oct.
30
,
1896
;
“Charcoal Adds Another Victim to his List,”
Macleod Gazette
,
Nov.
13
,
1896
;
“Charcoal on Trial for Murder,”
Macleod
Gazette
,
Jan.
15
,
1897
;
“Charcoal on the Gallows,”
Macleod Gazette
,
Mar.
19
,
1897
; J. Martin,
“Prairie Reminiscences,”
nd, p.
6
, 70.431/77, Public Archives of Alberta, Edmonton, Ab. For another episode of racial violence in the Canadian West, see, Steele,
Forty Years in Canada
,
218
27
.
31. Thomas Malthus,
An Essay on the Principle of Population, As it Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers
(
London
:
J. Johnson
,
1798
); Herbert Spencer coined the term
“survival of the fittest,”
in Spencer,
Principles of Biology
(
London
:
Williams and Norgate
,
1864
),
1
,
444
.
32. Walter Bagehot,
Physics and Politics
,
1872
, pt.
2
, FullBooks.com, http://www.fullbooks.com/Physics-and-Politics2.html (accessed
Aug.
5
,
2013
).
33.
“The Speech of Joseph Chamberlain, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, address at the Annual Dinner of the Royal Colonial Institute, March 31, 1897,”
Royal Belgian Overseas Union, http://www.urome.be/fr2/ouvrag/1897chamberlain.pdf (accessed
July
30
,
2013
).
34. Gordon Buchanan and Hathaniel Buchanan,
Packhorse and Waterhole: With the First Overlanders to the Kimberleys
(
Sydney
:
Angus and Robertson
,
1933
),
vii
; Mrs. Charles Inderwick,
May
13
,
1884
, Diary and Personal Letters from the North Fork Ranch, M376, Glenbow Archives;
“Outrages by the Blacks,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Oct.
4
,
1884
.
35. Much of this sort of conflict is found in papers like the
Macleod Gazette and Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune
prior to World War I, but one searches virtually in vain for it in the
Northern Territory Times
.
36.
“A Big Drunk,”
Macleod Gazette
,
Feb.
16
,
1886
; D. Warnock to D. McEachran, July 23, 1900; Jan. 29, 1901, New Walrond Ranche Papers, M8688-55, Glenbow Archives.
37. There was the occasional shooting in the cattle camps. Ernestine Hill,
The Territory: The Classic Saga of Australia's Far North
(
London
:
Angus & Robertson
,
1995
),
241
; Harriet W. Daly,
Digging, Squatting, and Pioneering Life in the Northern Territory of South Australia
(
London
:
Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Riverington
,
1887
),
308
.
38. Abbott and Smith,
We Pointed them North
,
131
34
; L. V. Kelly,
The Range Men: 75th Anniversary Edition
(
High River
:
Willow Creek
,
1988
),
174
; Henry Ieuch, Charles (Red) Nelson, Frank (Slim or Left Handed) Jones, see, Elofson,
Frontier Cattle Ranching
,
90
;
“Stock News,”
Macleod Gazette
,
June
23
,
1900
.
39.
“Sale of Unbranded and Wild Cattle,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Dec.
7
,
1900
;
“Country Notes,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Dec.
11
,
1886
; Elofson,
Cowboys, Gentlemen and Cattle Thieves: Ranching on the Western Frontier
(
Ithaca
:
McGill-Queen's University Press
,
2000
),
3
,
113
14
; C. Power to P. Foelsche, Feb. 28, 1889, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS.
40.
“The Squatter's Troubles,”
Northern Territory Times
,
Dec.
25
,
1896
;
“Expert Opinion of the Wandi Goldfield and Other Parts,”
Northern Territory Times
,
May
29
,
1896
.
41. Writings of H. E. Giles—Springvale Station, p.
43
, NTRS 298; C. Power to McGrath, Oct. 15, 1896, Borroloola Police Station Letterbook, NTRS 2210/P1, NTAS; Kelly,
Range Men
,
168
. For other incidents in Canada, see, Canada.
Sessional Papers
,
41
:
11
, 1906/07, n.
28
, North West Mounted Police Annual Reports, p.
63
, report for K division,
Oct.
1
,
1906
.
42. Wilson uses the court records to conclude that the Northern Territory was relatively law-abiding. Wilson,
“A Force Apart,”
174
.