Constable Millen’s Cairn Territorial Historic Site
Statement of Significance
The cairn commemorating RCMP Constable Millen’s death is located on Millen Creek, a tributary stream of the Rat River leading to the Mackenzie River Delta in the Northwest Territories. A simple three-sided pyramid of weathered logs sits in a clearing fringed by black spruce in a narrow stream cut valley overhung by willow and alder. It is a remote place, 40 kilometres northwest of Fort McPherson, the nearest community. The surrounding hills rise a hundred metres above the cairn.
The grey log pyramid marks the spot where RCMP Constable Edgar “Spike” Millen, Regimental Number 9669, in charge of the Arctic Red River Detachment, was killed in the line of duty, on the morning of January 30, 1932. As part of an RCMP search party, he was mortally wounded during an altercation with the man they were attempting to apprehend, Albert Johnson, a.k.a. “The Mad Trapper”. Constable Millen was the first RCMP Officer to be killed in the line of duty in what is now the Northwest Territories. Several weeks earlier, Johnson wounded another RCMP officer, Alfred King. Johnson was subsequently shot and killed almost a month later by pursuers on the Eagle River in the Yukon Territory.
The story of the wounding of Constable King, the killing of Constable Millen, and frequent updates on the police search was radioed south by the Royal Canadian Corp of Signals station at Aklavik. These news broadcasts became part of the history of the NWT and underscored the importance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in keeping the peace in the North. The story of the RCMP manhunt by dog teams, despite deep snow, frigid temperatures and howling blizzards; the dedication of the men of the Force in upholding the law; the participation of the Gwich’in and other local citizens in tracking the suspect; the mystique of the North; the image of the dashing bush pilot, Wop May, flying the first aerial police manhunt—these all helped entrench the legend that the Mounties “always get their man”.
- The commemoration of the first RCMP Officer to be killed in the line of duty while policing the Canadian frontier in what is now the NWT.
- The recognition of the long-standing presence and service of the RCMP in the North.
- The historical association with the story of the “Mad Trapper” and the legend of the police chase through the dark arctic winter in severe weather and terrain, and the first aerial RCMP manhunt in Canada.
- The natural landscape around the site—its remote setting and its rugged challenging character.
- The viewscape up and down the steep valley of Millen Creek.
- Nomination Document. 2007. Constable Millen’s Cairn. Document prepared for the NWT Historic Places Initiative. Report on file NWT Cultural Places Program, PWNHC, Yellowknife.