North-West Territories - Encyclopedia




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NORTH-WEST TERRITORIES. The North-West Territory was at first a general name given to all the districts of British North America lying N.W. of the St Lawrence basin. In the British North America Act of 1867 provision was made for the admission to Canada of "Rupert's Land and the North-West Territory." Manitoba was formed out of this district in 1870. The territory remaining was then called the "North-West Territories," and until other arrangements were made was to be under the governor of Manitoba. In 1876 the district of Keewatin was established; in 1881 the limits of Manitoba were enlarged; and in 1882 four new districts - Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Athabasca - were organized. In 1905 the two first of these with some modification became the province of Saskatchewan, and the two last the province of Alberta. The territories of Canada outside of the eight provinces and Yukon district of the mainland are now organized as the North-West Territories, and are under an administrator or acting governor. They include the districts of Keewatin, Ungava, Mackenzie and Franklin. These territories have an Indian population of about 850o, the Indians throughout the southern part being chiefly Chipewyans, or, as they are sometimes called, Tinne. The northern parts are inhabited by Eskimo. In these territories a short hot summer is followed by a long cold winter with extremely low temperatures, the spirit thermometer at times showing 60° to 65° F. below zero. The following observations may be quoted: - With the exception of southern Keewatin and the district south of James Bay the animals of the North-West Territories are chiefly fur-bearing. Great herds of musk-oxen are found in Mackenzie, and vast flocks of ducks, geese and other migratory birds spend summer in the northern wilds. Except in southern Keewatin and the James Bay district the flora is decidedly northern, becoming Arctic in the far north. Forest trees grow small and ill formed. Sedges abound, exceeding grasses; mustards are abundant, and saxifrages plentiful. Mosses and lichens are numerous.

The history of the north-west follows three different branches. (I) The story of Arctic exploration and the search for the NorthWest Passage, with a concentration of interest upon the name of Sir John Franklin, whose loss was followed by a great development of investigation in the Arctic regions; (2) the story of the fur trade, connected with the Hudson Bay forts, from the establishment of the first Charles Fort in 1669; (3) the story of immigration, the beginning of which is to be found in the coming of the Selkirk colonists, the real founders of Manitoba (q.v.), to Red river by way of Hudson Bay.

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