Master of re-invention: How this American soldier and whisky trader became Alberta's first MP

Heroes Hustlers and Horsemen with Female face

On a winter day in 1872, snow piles up against the palisades of Fort Whoop-up.

Inside the whisky post, a trader makes his rounds and checks the store room. 

His bosses down in Montana will be pleased.

The room is jam-packed with buffalo robes, some 2,000 of them that have been traded for gallons and gallons of whisky.

Well, a boiled-down concoction they call whisky, at least.

To the Blackfoot people of the area, the trader is known as Spit-ayna or Tall Man.

He’s an American hell bent on squeezing the frontier for profit.  

He could be ruthless.

And he would later become Alberta’s first member of Parliament.

His name — is D.W. Davis.

This is Episode 5 of Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen, a five-part podcast series from CBC Calgary about real people who lived in southern Alberta around the time of confederation and a few decades beyond. 

The stories aren’t of the Heritage Minute variety. These are the whisky-soaked, down and dusty, gun-slinging kinds of stories they leave out in school.

We’ll meet rogues and rebels, bold visionaries with big blind spots, the notorious and the opportunistic, the people who gave rein to their ambitions and passions and those who chose to buck the herd.

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