Swift Current, pop 14,821, is situated in southwestern Saskatchewan, midway between Regina and Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada highway. The city took its name from a creek that flows through it and empties into the South Saskatchewan River. The region features the Cypress Hills, which boast the site of Fort Walsh and a colourful history. The Cypress Hills, a sacred area where peaceful meetings took place among Aboriginal peoples, was known as “Whoop-Up” country in the 1860s. This was essentially a Blackfoot area, infiltrated by the American traders of Fort Whoop-Up, Fort Slideout, Fort Standoff, Fort Robber’s Roost, and Fort Whiskey Gap. Cree, Assiniboine, and Mountain Stoneys were affected by the trade of whisky and rapid-fire weapons, and “wolfers” (hunters and trappers) as well as American traders met in this area. In 1873, wolfers from Fort Hamilton followed up on horse thieves and killed sixteen Nakota or Assiniboine men (see Cypress Hills Massacre). By 1876, the only bison left to sustain the First Nations’ traditional lifestyle were to be found in this area. Following the battle of Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and 4,000 Hunkpapa Sioux found refuge in the Cypress Hills. Fort Walsh, built in 1875, became a base for the North-West Mounted Police in 1878.
In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway bridged the local creek and decided to build a depot. For some time, Swift Current was the freight terminus for goods hauled north and south on overland trails; the Battleford Trail that ran from the settlement cut deep wagon ruts which are still visible today. The settlement of Swift Current began the following spring. In 1898 a Local Improvement District was established; on September 21, 1903, the hamlet of Swift Current became a village under the Village Ordinance Act; and on March 15, 1907, it became a town, following a census which indicated a population of 550. At the turn of the century, settlers began arriving from the United States, Europe, and eastern Canada. With an economy founded on ranching and farming, Swift Current was incorporated as a city on January 15, 1914. In later years, oil and natural gas discoveries in the area helped to diversify the economy. Today, with one of the highest non-local traffic counts along the Trans-Canada No. 1 Highway, the city has prioritized tourism in terms of local development.