Located in the prairie region of Canada, Saskatchewan is bordered by Manitoba,
Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the United States, and is the only
Canadian province with entirely man-made boundaries. The province is
rectangular in shape and is 651 900 km2 in area. Half of it consists of
forests, one-third of cultivated lands, and one-eighth is covered with water.
The northern zone rests on a formation of Precambrian rock
characteristic of the Canadian Shield. As a result, there are numerous (over
100 000) lakes, rivers, bogs and rocky outcroppings.
The southern part of the province is relatively flat, with
occasional valleys created by erosion from the glacial era. This prairie zone
is where most of the people live.
Camel caravans might not seem out of place in certain parts
of Saskatchewan. Athabasca Provincial Park has sand dunes 30 metres high and
semi-arid vegetation. Nowhere else in the world are dunes found this far north.
The name Saskatchewan comes from the Cree word "kisiskatchewanisipi,"
which means "swift-flowing river." The province has four major
rivers: the Assiniboine, the North Saskatchewan, the South Saskatchewan and the
The whole province enjoys a hot, dry summer but the town of
Estevan is the undisputed "sunshine capital" of Canada, enjoying 2
540 hours of sunshine per year.
The first European explorers and trappers to visit Saskatchewan found
established settlements of Aboriginal people. The Chipewyan Indians lived in
the north; the Assiniboine inhabited the eastern plains, while the nomadic
Blackfoot roamed the west. The territory of the Cree, who were long-time
residents of the north, also extended southward to the plains.
The earliest explorer was Henry Kelsey, a Hudson's Bay
Company agent, who in about 1690 followed the Saskatchewan River to the
southern plains of Saskatchewan. On the heels of the trappers came fur-trading
companies and trading posts, which became the foundation of many present-day
For 200 years, the Hudson's Bay Company owned and
administered the vast Northwest Territories. Realizing their agricultural
potential and the opportunities for colonization, the Government of Canada
acquired the Territories in 1870. After the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, which encouraged
homesteaders, and another Act to stimulate immigration, the new railway began
bringing settlers in to farm these rich lands.
In 1905, Saskatchewan separated from the Northwest
Territories and was established as a province. Regina became the provincial
capital. The years following were years of prosperity, until the 1929 economic
crash, combined with a decade of drought and bad harvests, brought the lean
years of the Great Depression to the province.
In 1944, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF)
became the first socialist government elected in North America. Its leader,
Tommy Douglas, led the fight for public hospitalization and medicare, earning
Saskatchewan the reputation as the "social laboratory of North
The recovery of the 1940s and 1950s saw the economy, once
dependent solely on agriculture, become more diversified with the development
of oil, uranium, potash, coal and other minerals.
The Métis, people of mixed European and Aboriginal descent, were among
the first settlers, many of them having migrated from Manitoba. With land
available at token prices, agriculture gradually replaced the fur trade. A
major wave of immigration began in 1899 and continued until 1929.
Today, Saskatchewan's population stands at approximately 1
024 000. Saskatchewan is Canada's only province where the majority of the
population is of neither British nor French background. The population has a
variety of ethnic inheritances - German, Ukrainian, Scandinavian, Amerindian,
Dutch, Polish and Russian, as well as British, French and many other
Regina and Saskatoon are the two main cities and together
have more than one-third of the total population. Named in recognition of Queen
Victoria (Victoria Regina), the capital is the site of Wascana Centre, one of
the world's largest urban parks. Saskatoon, which has a larger population, is
bisected by the South Saskatchewan River.
Saskatchewan has changed greatly since it became a province in 1905. Back then,
agriculture was the only industry, and it centred on wheat farming. Today,
Saskatchewan produces over 54 percent of the wheat grown in Canada. Other crops
include canola, rye, oats, barley and flaxseed. Saskatchewan is also a major
producer of cattle and hogs. The average Saskatchewan farm is about 420
hectares in size.
Northern Saskatchewan's 350 000 km2 of forests are the
province's most important renewable natural resource. Softwoods (coniferous
trees) are the focal point of forestry development.
Saskatchewan is also a province rich in minerals. Potash,
uranium, coal, oil and natural gas are the leading mineral resources.
Saskatchewan's almost 19 000 active oil wells produce about 20 percent of
Canada's total oil output. In addition, with an estimated two-thirds of the
world's reserves, Saskatchewan is the leading exporter of potash.
Research and development is a growing business in
Saskatchewan, as attested to by the inauguration of Saskatoon's Innovation
Centre and more recently, the construction of the Canadian Light Source
synchrotron, one of only a few such facilities in the world. The province's
technological potential in agriculture, space technology and biotechnology is
now recognized internationally.
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