Large portions of NWT were subsequently removed to create the provinces of Manitoba (1870), Saskatchewan (1905) and Alberta (1905); the Yukon Territory (1898) and Nunavut (1999); and to add to the areas of Manitoba (1880, 1912), Ontario (1912) and Québec (1912).
Land and Resources
The NWT includes a mainland portion lying west of the treeline and south of the BEAUFORT SEA and other arctic marine waters to the east. North of the mainland the ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO includes a great number of islands of varying size and complexity. Banks Island, the northeastern part of Victoria Island, the western part of Melville Island and the Parry Islands lie within the territories' border. The more westerly part of the mainland forms the Mackenzie Valley area, a subarctic region contrasting with the arctic mainland area that lies east and north of the TREELINE and is sometimes known as the Barren Lands. This vegetation division corresponds to a cultural division of the native peoples, with the Inuit occupying the Arctic and the Dene, the Subarctic. The greater economic development and larger population of the subarctic Mackenzie Valley also set it apart from the arctic mainland.
Although lat 60° N is the southern boundary of the NWT, some islands are included within its boundaries.
Ice covers all the surrounding seas for much of the year, and never disappears from around the northwesternmost islands, severely limiting navigation. Long, cold winters are characteristic of all the NWT. The southeast sector of the Archipelago is not as cold, however, because of its proximity to the open waters of the North Atlantic, and with its higher elevation, it receives higher precipitation than elsewhere in the Arctic, which overall is among the driest areas of Canada.
The Archipelago differs from the other 2 regions of the NWT in that summers remain cool, averaging only 4° C in July over most of the area because of the surrounding cold waters. The great contrast between the long days of summer and the short (even nonexistent) days of winter reflects the high latitude.
Marine biotic resources (whales, seals, fish) supplemented by caribou have traditionally supported the INUIT, along with trapping (arctic fox) in the first half of the 20th century. Commercial WHALING by non-natives almost exterminated whales by around 1910, though limited hunting by native people continues (eg, in the Mackenzie Delta). Polar bear skins and fox pelts still provide some income for the Inuit.
The greatest postwar resource development has been in minerals, with 2 lead-zinc mines that were in production in the Archipelago: NANISIVIK at Strathcona Sound on northern Baffin Island, and Polaris on Little Cornwallis Island. Both mines were closed in 2002. There is increased interest in base metal exploration on Baffin Island. Oil and natural gas exploration in the northwestern Queen Elizabeth Islands was suspended from 1970-95. Proven reserves of oil are sufficient enough that Panarctic Oil has constructed a production site at Bent Horn on Cameron Island and ships the oil by tanker to eastern Canada. This greatly increased resource development has aroused great concern for the fragile arctic ENVIRONMENT among both the native peoples and conservationists.
The territories' first national park, AULAVIK, was established in the Archipelago on BANKS ISLAND in 1992. Severe climate and PERMAFROST result in very poor soil development. Vegetation is tundra, varying from low bush to grass, but it may be lacking in some sectors.
The Canadian SHIELD makes up the arctic mainland. Canada's oldest rocks (3.96 billion years) were found east of Great Bear Lake. Pleistocene ice sheets polished its surface, stripping away surface material down to the bedrock. In places boulders and meltwater-sorted sands and gravels remain from the melting ice. Overall it is a gently undulating rocky surface of low elevation, with a bewildering maze of rivers and irregular lakes.
As in the Archipelago, true soil is generally absent. Vegetation is also the tundra type, usually including considerable shrubs. In sheltered places, as along inland water courses, stunted trees may extend out from the forested lands on the south and west.
Climatically as well as in location the arctic mainland lies between the Arctic Archipelago and the Mackenzie Valley, with more severe winter temperatures and higher summer temperatures than the former because of its continental location. BAKER LAKE, for example, west of Hudson Bay, has a mean daily temperature of -33.0° C in January and 11.0° C in July, with a mean total precipitation of 262 mm.
The greatest single natural resource of the region for the Native peoples has been the migratory barren land CARIBOU, which swarmed in enormous herds to summer in this region. In the 20th century caribou numbers fluctuated dramatically because of changes in hunting pressure and wolf abundance. Declines had serious repercussions for local residents here, resulting in the movement of the CARIBOU INUIT of the Ennadai Lake area to communities on the west coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavut. By 1985, caribou numbers were again large and most herds were increasing.
As in the Arctic Archipelago, marine biotic resources and trapping still provide some support for the Inuit, but most now are permanent residents in settlements and seek additional sources of income.
Diamonds at Lac de Gras, 300 km north of Yellowknife, attracted much attention in the1990s. The discovery of the first Kimberlite pipe in 1990 resulted in one of the world's largest stacking rushes into the area the following year.
There has been some development in recent years of tourist facilities for fishermen, bird watchers and photographers. Concerns have been voiced about the impact of large-scale resource development on the local environment, on the traditional native way of life and on native LAND CLAIMS.
Mackenzie Valley Area
Geologically this area ranges from the Canadian Shield on its eastern margin through younger Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary formations in sequence to the west. GREAT BEAR LAKE (31 328 km2) and GREAT SLAVE LAKE (28 568 km2) lie along the contact line of the Shield, which here often exceeds 300 m of relief.
Much of the Mackenzie Valley area consists of the narrowing northward extent of the level continental Interior Plains, with occasional level-bedded hill areas a few hundred metres above the general surface. In the west it rises abruptly into the mountainous terrain of the rugged Cordillera region with peaks of over 2700 m. The area is integrated by the MACKENZIE RIVER and its tributaries, whose total drainage area (1.8 million km2) and system length (4241 km) are the largest and longest in Canada.
Only the northernmost part of the area falls within the continuous PERMAFROST zone, unlike the other 2 regions of the NWT. Almost all falls within the discontinuous zone where permafrost is widespread if not universal.
The upper Mackenzie Valley lies within the BOREAL FOREST transitional zone, where spruce and larch are common; the lower Mackenzie Valley is within the Northern boreal woodland area, which has a great number of tree species including white birch, jack pine, balsam fir and trembling aspen. Extensive areas of poor drainage occur, especially on the plains, as a result of permafrost and continental glaciation. These result in string bogs and MUSKEG.
Temperature ranges are greater in the Mackenzie Valley than in the other 2 regions. At Fort Good Hope a maximum of 35° C has been recorded and a low of -61.7° C. In January the average mean temperature is approximately -30° C and somewhat milder temperatures can occur briefly throughout the winter. More importantly the summers are normally warmer in the Mackenzie Valley, with July's mean usually 16° C. Precipitation, including snowfall, is significantly higher than for most of the Arctic.
Hunting, fishing and trapping have been traditional activities for the native population, and the FUR TRADE supported the earliest non-native presence. Moose, caribou, bear, beaver, fox, muskrat and migratory birds continue to be important, but the major resource base since the 1930s has been minerals. Though radium and uranium production from Port Radium on Great Bear Lake, lead-zinc at PINE POINT and tungsten at the community of the same name is no longer mined, there are a number of gold mines in production in the YELLOWKNIFE area.
Oil continues to be produced in the Mackenzie Valley at NORMAN WELLS, Canada's pioneer (1921) northern oilfield.
A commercial fishery operates at HAY RIVER on Great Slave Lake. Limited commercial use has been made of forests because of remoteness from markets and slow growth rates.
The potential hydro power resources of the NWT that can be developed have been estimated at about 2473 MW, most of which is within the Mackenzie Valley area. The series of rapids on the SLAVE RIVER near the Alberta boundary has attracted attention for possible hydroelectric power generation, but such a project would have serious repercussions for wildlife and wildlife habitat.
WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARK, straddling the Alberta boundary, is Canada's largest national park (44 802 km2). It was established in 1922 to protect the only herd of wood BISON in the wild state, and also contains several thousand plains bison and the summer nesting grounds of the nearly extinct WHOOPING CRANE.
Concern for environmental disruption by large projects in the Mackenzie Valley and the Arctic was demonstrated in the 1970s, when the Berger inquiry into a MACKENZIE VALLEY PIPELINE resulted in its delay until native land claims and environmental issues were resolved.
A northward extension of the fur trade led to the first non-native presence in the NWT in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as posts were established down the Mackenzie Valley. Missions arrived in the latter part of the 19th century, and the RCMP and other representatives of the federal government in the present century.
Mineral and transportation developments in the 1930s marked the beginning of a more significant non-native influx. In the arctic regions, the remoteness made access more difficult, and fur trade posts were not established there until the 20th century. Permanent settlements were not established in the Queen Elizabeth Islands until after WWII. The population of the territory in 2001 was 37 360, which was 5.8% lower than it was in 1996.
The most populous of the small urban centres in the Northwest Territories are located in the Mackenzie Valley area. Yellowknife is the largest city (pop 16 055). It began as a gold mining centre and became territorial capital in 1967. FORT SMITH (pop 2185) was the major administrative centre within the territories until 1967 and is still important as a regional centre.
FORT SIMPSON (pop 1163), once the centre of the fur trade, is located at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie rivers. INUVIK (pop 2894) is the major administrative and transportation centre for the western Arctic. Most settlements in the Northwest Territories consist of only a few hundred people.
Native people represent approximately half of the population of the NWT. Most non-natives are found in the Mackenzie Valley, mainly in the larger settlements. The 41.4% of the population speaking languages other than English or French is a reflection of the multiplicity of native cultures that prevails in the NWT. There are 8 official languages spoken in the Northwest Territories.
A large number of Inuit live in the Northwest Territories. As well there are numerous different Aboriginal cultural groups of the Mackenzie Valley area, included within the Dene or Athapaskan linguistic group, the 2 largest Native groups in the Northwest Territories.
The Métis are stressing their own separate identity as a fourth major ethnic element in the NWT. All 3 native groups are increasingly active politically.
Primary resource extraction always has been the foundation of the NWT economy. Furs, the original base, are now of much less importance. Commercial whaling disappeared early in this century. From the 1930s minerals have become the most important economic base for the NWT, with all other economic activities except service far behind.
Agriculture is of negligible significance in the NWT. The warm summers of the Mackenzie Valley have encouraged speculation on its potential for agriculture, and there have been impressive crop tests recorded at favourably located experimentation stations. However, small markets, summer drought and limited good soils create serious obstacles, and improved transportation service often makes it cheaper to bring in agricultural products from the south. Only a few market gardens operate in the Hay River valley.
Gold, silver and diamond shipments contributed $56 million, $258 000 and $636 million respectively to the economy in 2000. The NWT traditionally provided almost 100% of Canada's production of tungsten until low metal prices forced closure of the mine in 1986.
Mining employs about 2000 people, or about 15% of the work force of the territories, and provides significant employment in related service activities such as mining exploration. Except for the production of gold bullion, no smelting of minerals occurs in the territories, however, as concentrates they are shipped elsewhere.
The only producing oilfield in the NWT is at Norman Wells, and the oil is also refined locally. Production of approximately 3000 barrels daily from 50 wells increased in the 1990s, with an $800 million expansion, to 30 000 barrels a day, which is piped south to Alberta. Tankers carry the 100 000 m3/yr production from Bent Horn on Cameron Island to Montréal. A small gas field at Pointed Mountain in the southwest near the NWT-Yukon-BC border pipes gas southward. In 2001, crude was worth $379 million in shipments.
The ongoing search for additional sources of oil and natural gas reflects Canada's hopes for national self-sufficiency in these fuels and for greater employment opportunities for northerners. The Amauligak field in the Beaufort Sea has reserves estimated at 54 million m3. In addition to the 2 main arctic exploration areas (Beaufort Sea and northwest Queen Elizabeth Islands), the search now includes DAVIS STRAIT and northwest Baffin. Offshore exploration resumed in 1995 following the lifting of a 25-year right issuance moratorium, which had been in place pending the resolution of land claims.
Hunting and Trapping
Hunting and trapping are more important in the daily lives of NWT residents than statistics might suggest. Although a large percentage of the 5000 residents holding general hunting and trapping licences are only part-time hunters and trappers, many of the people living in smaller communities earn most of their living by hunting, trapping and fishing.
In addition to the fur value obtained (almost $900 000 in 1999), the meat is a major item in the local diet. Since 1974 the territorial government assists those wishing to make a living off the land through various harvest assistance programs.
Fishing and Forestry
Tourism provides increasing economic benefits to the NWT, with visitors arriving by road via the MACKENZIE HIGHWAY system and the DEMPSTER HIGHWAY in the west. Fly-in sport fishing lodges and wilderness camps are served out of Yellowknife, Fort Smith, etc. The 4 national parks in the NWT attract visitors despite their distance from southern Canada: Auyuittuq is administered from Pangnirtung, Wood Buffalo from Fort Smith, NAHANNI from Fort Simpson; Aulavik from Sachs Harbour; Ellesmere Island from Pangnirtung; and Tuktut Nogait from Paulatuk. In 1979 Nahanni was declared a UNITED NATIONS WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
Arts and Crafts
A vigorous arts and crafts program among the native people generates several million dollars annually. More than one-sixth of the native population is engaged seasonally in this activity. Inuit prints and sculpture have established an international reputation and are a major source of employment in CAPE DORSET, ULUKHAKTOK, Baker Lake and other communities.
Most are handled through local co-operatives, which now number 46 in the NWT with a membership of over 5000. They operate a variety of services, including hotels, restaurants and retail stores and are the largest employers of native people in the North.
Transportation in the NWT must cope with enormous distances, severe climatic conditions and the small, scattered population. It is remarkable that the NWT is so well served, and the high costs can be appreciated.
Commercial water transportation still operates during the summer on the Mackenzie. A modern diesel tug and barge fleet is based at Hay River, with a secondary base at the mouth of the Mackenzie at TUKTOYAKTUK, the only reliably sheltered harbour on the shallow western coast.
The coastal communities from Tuktoyaktuk eastwards as far as the Boothia Peninsula are served by tug and dual-purpose barge, though often the short ice-free season may restrict such service to a single call. Eastern Arctic communities are served by vessels operating out of Churchill, Montréal and Halifax, with regular annual visits as far north as RESOLUTE but including some icebreaker escorted trips to Winter Harbour on Melville Peninsula.
Since WWII a limited road network has been extended northwards into the Mackenzie Valley. Highways are mainly all-weather gravel roads and include several important river ferry links. The total length is about 2200 km. The Mackenzie and Yellowknife highways link Hay River and Yellowknife to the road system of northwestern Alberta. Extensions from Hay River tie in FORT RESOLUTION and Fort Smith. This extension is the only road access to Wood Buffalo National Park. A northward extension down the Mackenzie Valley ends at Wrigley, north of Fort Simpson. The Liard Highway, opened in 1984, ties Fort Simpson to Fort Liard and to the ALASKA HIGHWAY. Inuvik and other Mackenzie Delta communities are now linked to Dawson, YT, by the DEMPSTER HIGHWAY, making it almost possible to reach the shores of the Arctic Ocean by road.
"Winter roads" exist seasonally over frozen lakes to many isolated communities and mines and are of very significant economic importance.
The former Great Slave Lake Railway, now a branch of CN's Peace River Division, extends 696 km north from Grimshaw, Alta, to Hay River and is the only railway in the NWT. The railway also led to Hay River's development as the major river transportation centre because of its transshipment advantages, thus displacing the earlier all-water Slave River route via Fort McMurray, Alta.
Aircraft often are the only practical method of transportation in the NWT, particularly in the Arctic. Airfields serve most NWT communities with populations over 100. Regularly scheduled airline service is provided from southern Canadian cities into the larger communities as far north as Resolute.
The main southern airports serving the NWT are Edmonton to the Mackenzie Valley area and to Resolute, Montréal to the Eastern Arctic and to Resolute, and Winnipeg to Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. Flights to Yellowknife account for 90% of the air flights in all of the NWT. An east-west service links Yellowknife and Iqaluit, one through Rankin Inlet, the other along the Arctic coast. Almost all communities, including the northernmost arctic settlements, now have local air service available, while nonscheduled charter aircraft bush planes operate from the larger centres to any point in the territories, even to the North Pole.
Heating is a major cost for northerners, given the long, severe winters and the transportation costs. Energy needs for most settlements are provided by fuel oil and thermal power generation. In most of the territory hydro power is nonexistent.
Electricity is provided by 2 companies, Northwest Territories Power Corporation and Northland Utilities Enterprises Ltd. The larger of the 2 is NWT Power with 84% of the total installed generating capacity in 1994 (132.5 MW thermal and 45.6 MW hydro). The territorial crown corporation provides electricity to 49 communities; Northland Utilities services 5 communities in the southwestern region. Three rivers have hydro plants on their banks: Yellowknife, Snare (3 plants) and Taltson.
Government and Politics
From 1905 until after WWII the government of the NWT was carried on by the appointed commissioner and council, composed entirely of senior civil servants based in Ottawa. Beginning in 1951, elected members were added gradually to the previously all-appointed council until it became a fully elected body in 1975. The commissioner used to be a deputy minister in the federal department in charge of the administration of the Yukon Territory and the NWT in addition to other major responsibilities. In 1966, the federal government created federal electoral constituencies in parts of the Northwest Territories. In 1967, a resident Commissioner was appointed and many federal programs were transferred to the territorial government.
In 1967 the seat of territorial government was moved to Yellowknife and the commissioner relocated there with the nucleus of what has become a territorial public service.
The federal Northwest Territories Act contains the written constitution and defines the powers of the territorial government. The territorial assembly consists of 19 members, one of whom it chooses to preside as Speaker, and one as premier. There are no political parties in the territory. A unique feature of the assembly currently is that the majority of members are native.
The chief executive officer for the territory is the commissioner, appointed by the federal government, who is required to administer the territory under instructions from the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The government leader serves as chairman of the executive assembly, whose members are chosen by the legislative assembly from among its members.
The role of the commissioner has changed as elected executive members assume increasing departmental and executive functions. Each member of the executive committee is responsible for one or more territorial government departments. As the executive has transformed into a truly ministerial entity and exercised executive functions, the government leader has slowly assumed the role and duties previously held by the commissioner and now is effectively the "premier." The NWT elects 2 members to the Canadian Parliament and also has one representative in the Senate.See NORTHWEST TERRITORIES LIEUTENANT-GOVERNORS: TABLE.
The territorial judiciary comprises a Court of Appeal consisting of all the justices of appeal from Alberta, 1 from Saskatchewan and the 5 Supreme Court justices. The Territorial Court has 5 resident judges (3 in Yellowknife, 1 in Hay River and 1 in Inuvik) and over 100 justices of the peace (over half of whom are of native origin) living in communities throughout the territory. Judges and justices of the peace are appointed by the commissioner on the advice of the Judicial Council of the NWT. The 3 judges of the Supreme Court of the NWT are ex officio judges in the Yukon Territory, and vice versa. There are 40 deputy judges of the Supreme Court who serve where and when needed. Court sessions are held in Yellowknife and on regular court circuits throughout the territories.
For administrative purposes the NWT is divided into 2 regions: Fort Smith Region (based in Fort Smith) and Inuvik Region (Inuvik).
Decentralization and devolution recently have been increasing the importance of the regions. The fostering of development of local government to provide local decision making has been hampered by the small size of many of these communities and by their remoteness and limited local economic resources.
At present there are 47 incorporated municipalities in the NWT, of which 7 are tax-based: the city of Yellowknife; the towns of Inuvik, Hay River, Iqaluit, Fort Smith and Norman Wells; and the village of Fort Simpson. There are 35 hamlets, 3 settlement corporations, 2 charter communities and 15 unincorporated communities.
Until Northern Health Services was established by the federal government in 1954, health services in the territory were provided principally by church agencies. Since then they have been broadened to make available facilities that are similar to those elsewhere in Canada.
The territorial government assumed full control of health services in 1988. Modern hospitals are located in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik, with lesser facilities including some 50 nursing stations scattered over the territory. Dental care is available in Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik and Fort Smith, and from government-employed full-time dentists and dental therapists located throughout the NWT.
Although candidates for the 2 NWT seats in the federal Parliament represent traditional political parties, this is not true for the territorial legislature, which operates on a "no political party" consensus basis. Two major issues occupy territorial residents currently: native land claims and political status. Though the Dene signed treaties with the federal government in the past, they dispute that land title was involved and, except for one at Hay River and another near Fort Smith. No other reserves exist. Three land claim agreements have been settled: Inuvialuit of the western Arctic (1984); Tungavik Federation which created NUNAVUT (1993); and Sahtu Dene and Métis of the Mackenzie Valley (1994).
The federal government quickly accepted and implemented many of the recommendations of the 1966 Carrothers Commission on the development of government in the NWT. It is on record as supporting the move towards full RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. At present, however, it retains control of territorial resource revenues and the territorial government is dependent on the federal government for the bulk of its finances (71% of government revenues).
Whether resource revenues in future will be transferred or shared is a controversial issue. The 1980 Drury Commission endorsed the existing government and recommended that greater authority be transferred to it and to the communities.
In a 1982 plebiscite a majority voted in favour of dividing the NWT. In February 1985 the new Conservative federal government endorsed the plan to divide the NWT into 2 independent jurisdictions - Nunavut in the east, composed of a primarily Inuit population, and a western territory (what has remained as the Northwest Territories) composed of Dene, Métis, some Inuit and non-natives.
The parties involved reached a tentative boundary agreement early in 1987, but this agreement failed before the final plebiscite could be held. The various parties reached formal agreement on the boundary in 1993 and signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which established the basis for negotiations and finalized the separation of the NWT in 1999.
Until the end of WWII, education was provided mainly by church missions, with students usually housed in nearby residences in a few larger centres. Beginning in 1959, a massive development program was initiated by the federal government and was transferred to the territorial government in 1969.
The establishment of divisional boards of education has increased local control of education in the NWT in recent years. The Baffin region was the first to form a divisional board in 1985, and by 1991 divisional boards of education were established in all regions except Yellowknife. One member of each locally elected community education council is selected to serve on the region's divisional board. Yellowknife is represented by a public and a Catholic board of education which were founded in 1933 and 1951 respectively. Members of these boards are elected in municipal elections.
The boards and divisional boards have authority for the delivery of education from kindergarten to grade 12. Divisional boards of education receive their funding from the territorial government. The 2 Yellowknife boards receive 25% of their funding from municipal taxes and the remainder from the territorial government.
In 2000 there were 77 schools in the NWT, with 1253 full-time teachers and 9800 students enrolled (compared with 6000 in 1962) at a cost of over $81 million. The NWT has developed its own curriculum for kindergarten through to grade 9. The curricula for senior secondary grades follow that of Alberta, although the NWT has developed its own curricula for additional northern high school courses.
The territorial Department of Education, Culture and Employment has worked to make education an interactive process involving students, families and communities in the school system. Two aboriginal curricula, DeneKede and Inuuqatigiit, bring the Dene and Inuit perspective to schools in the Western and Eastern Arctic. Aboriginal language specialist teachers and an increasing number of aboriginal teachers trained through community-based teacher education programs play an active role in ensuring local language and culture is integrated into school programs.
The establishment of a community-based college system has contributed to local priorities being reflected in adult and continuing education. Arctic College was established in 1984 with campuses in Fort Smith and Iqaluit, and grew rapidly to include campuses in each region of the NWT. In 1986, the Arctic Colleges Act established the college as a corporate entity at arm's length from the territorial government and gave it the mandate to deliver adult and post-secondary education. By 1987, it was agreed that community learning centres across the North would join the college system, a process which was completed in 1990.
In 1995, Arctic College was divided into two colleges: Aurora College in the Western Arctic, and Nunavut Arctic College in the Eastern Arctic. The establishment of these colleges is part of an overall strategy to strengthen adult and post-secondary education across the North. The 2 colleges provide an increased focus on community needs.
Aboriginal peoples in the NWT have strong interests in maintaining their cultures and preserving their heritage. Aboriginal cultural institutes have been established in several communities, and many others have initiated programs to record the knowledge of elders, to teach children traditional skills and to maintain their languages. Music and art festivals are becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the NWT. Many community museums, historical societies and heritage groups operate within the NWT.
The ARCTIC WINTER GAMES, held every 2 years since 1970, include a variety of traditional native games as well as more widely known sports, drawing competitors from the NWT, Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska and northern Alberta.
Six weekly newspapers are published regularly in the NWT and a general publisher is located in Yellowknife. In 1958 the CBC established a Northern Service to meet the special needs of northerners, both native and non-native.
Radio broadcasts are made in 10 native languages and dialects, as well as in English and French, and include local community as well as network programs. Relay transmitter stations and microwave systems help offset the great distances. Satellite channels now make it possible to transmit radio and television programs into the most remote northern communities; all of the more than 60 centres with populations over 150 receive radio and television. A second, commercial service offering as great a variety of programs as anywhere on the continent began in 1982. A TV station is located in Yellowknife. Telephone services link nearly all communities.
Active archaeological surveys are providing greater knowledge about the early native peoples in the Subarctic and the Arctic. Each year new archaeological discoveries are made which provide greater knowledge about the early native peoples in the Subarctic and the Arctic. Many historic sites are associated with the fur trade in the Subarctic, and with exploration for the NORTHWEST PASSAGE and the lost FRANKLIN EXPEDITION. These sites are now protected by law against vandalism and looting.
A variety of aboriginal cultures existed in the area before the arrival of the non-natives based upon the nomadic hunting and fishing economies of the Inuit in the Arctic, and of the Dene in the Subarctic. Within the latter Athapaskan linguistic family, some 7 dialectical groups existed: CHIPEWAN, YELLOWKNIFE, Slave, Dogrib, HARE, Nahanni and GWICH'IN.
The first known European explorers to visit today's NWT were the Vikings, who sailed to the Eastern Arctic from their Greenland settlements (c 1000 AD). In 1576 Martin FROBISHER was the first of a series of European explorers seeking the Northwest Passage, but by the early 16th century the severe ice conditions and the limitations of the ships checked much farther advance.
In 1770-71 Samuel HEARNE of the HBC made a remarkable overland trip from Churchill through the arctic mainland to the COPPERMINE RIVER, but though the company used the Hudson Bay route, its interests were farther inland on the continent.
Alexander MACKENZIE of the NWC pushed north from FORT CHIPEWYAN on Lake Athabasca in 1789 to discover and follow the Mackenzie River to its mouth. Fur trade posts were soon established along his route and in tributary areas, and were subsequently taken over by the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY.
Later exploration in the Arctic Archipelago focused on a renewed search for a Northwest Passage in the first part of the 19th century, and on attempts to reach the geographic North Pole in the latter part. The disappearance of Sir John FRANKLIN's 1845 expedition led to the addition of much map information by the search expeditions and included the traverse of the elusive passage in 1853 by Sir Robert MCCLURE (though the first traverse by ship was in 1903-04 by Roald AMUNDSEN).
Later British and American expeditions proceeding up the eastern coast of Ellesmere Island explored the eastern Queen Elizabeth Islands. The Norwegian explorer Otto SVERDRUP discovered most of the remaining islands to the northwest at the turn of the 20th century, with Vilhjalmur STEFANSSON completing discoveries 1913-18.
The fur trade posts provided the only nuclei of non-native settlement in the NWT until relatively recently. Missions were established near the posts along the Mackenzie in the latter part of the 19th century.
Federal presence was represented in these small settlements after the turn of the century by the RCMP, by Royal Canadian Corps of Signals radio stations and by other agencies. Strategic water transportation sites, such as Fort Smith and Tuktoyaktuk, provided other attractions for limited settlement. Because of its easier accessibility and more varied resources, more incomers trickled into the Mackenzie Valley than the Arctic.
Beginning in the 1930s mineral exploration aided by the bush pilots and their improved aircraft resulted in a significant influx of newcomers, even into the Arctic mainland.
In recent decades major change and development in the NWT have resulted from international and national political events, widespread social change, large-scale resource demands and the availability of improved technology. As early as WWII the impact of international hostilities was felt in Mackenzie Valley settlements through the CANOL PIPELINE and in the southern part of the Eastern Arctic through the North East Staging Route airports. The Cold War caused Dew Line radar stations (see EARLY-WARNING RADAR) to be built across the Arctic and contributed to the introduction of the first permanent settlements in the Queen Elizabeth Islands as part of the Joint Arctic Weather Stations project (see HIGH ARCTIC WEATHER STATIONS).
The federal government assumed increased responsibility with the creation (1953) of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources (now the MINISTRY OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT). Major improvements were made in health services, housing, education facilities and communications to bring them more into line with those of southern Canada. More recently much of this responsibility has been delegated to the territorial government.
Government services are now more numerous throughout northern settlements and occasionally provide the greatest source of local employment. As a result, most northern residents now live in permanent settlements for most of the year. The demand for minerals and fuels along with improvements in mining and transportation technology have made northern resources economically attractive, and resource development provides employment. However, resource development also injects an unpredictability into employment and the economy and threatens the environment and the native peoples' options to retain their traditional way of life.
Author WILLIAM C. WONDERS
T. R. Berger, Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland (1976); L.-E. Hamelin, Canadian Nordicity: It's Your North, Too (1979); D.H. Pimlott et al, eds, Arctic Alternatives (1973); K.J. Rea, The Political Economy of the Canadian North (1968); W.C. Wonders, ed, The North (1972); M. Zaslow, The Opening of the Canadian North, 1870-1914 (1971), and ed, A Century of Canada's Arctic Islands, 1880-1980 (1981).
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
The official site for the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Symbols of Canada
An illustrated guide to national and provincial symbols of Canada, our national anthem, national and provincial holidays, and more. Click on "Historical Flags of Canada" and then "Posters of Historical Flags of Canada" for additional images. From the Canadian Heritage website.
The official website for the City of Yellowknife. Click on "Residents" and check out the online City Art Collection.
Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories
The website for the Legislative Assembly for the Northwest Territories. See also a description of the building designed by NWT architects Ferguson Simek Clark and Pin Matthews in association with Matsuzaki Architects Inc of Vancouver.
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
Explore the history, culture, and ecology of Canada's North at the website for the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Check out "Inuvialuit Place Names" for interactive maps and interesting historical details about numerous sites throughout this vast region.
A map of Statistics Canada's North-line which delineates the North from the South of Canada.
Library and Archives Canada
The website for Library and Archives Canada. Offers searchable online collections of textual documents, photographs, audio recordings, and other digitized resources. Also includes virtual exhibits about Canadian history and culture, and research aids that assist in locating material in the physical collections.
Maps of provinces and territories from "The Atlas of Canada," Natural Resources Canada.
The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic
A comprehensive multimedia collection of stories and images about the history, lifestyle, and culture of the Inuvialuit (Inuit) people in Canada’s North. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Lessons from the Land: Idaa Trail
Take a virtual tour along the Idaa Trail, a traditional canoe route of the Tåîchô (Dogrib) people in the Northwest Territories. Click on the names along the trail to learn about the history of each site. See the teachers' guide and other sections of the extensive Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre website for more information.
The Mackenzie River Basin Board
This website features an extensive collection of exceptional maps that depict the geology, geography, and ecology of the Mackenzie River Basin region.
North of 60° — Visions of the New North
This multimedia exhibit offers a glimpse of life in Canada’s northern communities. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Military Communications and Electronics Museum
Check the illustrated military history exhibits at this Military Communications and Electronics Museum website.
Geographical Names of Canada
Search the "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base" for the official name of a city, town, lake (or any other geographical feature) in any province or territory in Canada. See also the real story of how Toronto got its name. A Natural Resources Canada website.
The Spatial and Historical Evolution of Iqaluit
Explore the history and development of Iqaluit in this interesting multimedia website from Natural Resources Canada. Check out the many cartographic visualization features and the Historical Research section, which includes an interactive tutorial about the history of the Iqaluit region. Requires Adobe Shockwave Player.
The Northwest Territories
This “Canadian Confederation” website focues on the major issues and events leading up to The Northwest Territories' entry into Confederation. Includes biographies of prominent personalities, old photos and related archival material. From Library and Archives Canada.
An overview of the major issues and events leading up to Nunavut's entry into Confederation. Includes biographies of prominent personalities, old photos and related archival material. From Library and Archives Canada.
An interactive guide to "Geologic Journey," a CBC documentary series which traces the extraordinary geologic history of the North America continent.
The Premier of the Northwest Territories
Information about the Premier of the Northwest Territories from the website for the Government of the Northwest Territories.
A history of the "census" in Canada. Check the menu on the left for data on small groups (such as lone-parent families, ethnic groups, industrial and occupational categories and immigrants) and for information about areas as small as a city neighbourhood or as large as the entire country. From the website for Statistics Canada.
Gwich'in Tribal Council
Local news and information about the Gwich'in communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Also photographs of the rugged landscape and glimpses of daily life in the region. Check out the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute.
Aboriginal Place Names
This site highlights Aboriginal place names found across Canada. From the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
N.W.T. Mining Heritage Society
The N.W.T. Mining Heritage Society is dedicated to preserving and promoting the mining heritage of the Northwest Territories. Their illustrated website explores the rich history of mining in the Yellowknife region.
History of Giant Mine
About one of Canada’s longest continuous gold mining operations, the Giant Mine site located in the City of Yellowknife. From the website for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
Archives Canada is a gateway to archival resources found in over 800 repositories across Canada. Features searchable access to virtual exhibits and photo databases residing on the websites of individual archives or Provincial/Territorial Councils. Includes documentary records, maps, photographs, sound recordings, videos, and more.
Journal of Glaciology
This site offers free access to selected articles from the "Journal of Glaciology." From the International Glaciological Society.
Annual cycle of light in the Northern Arctic
A graphical representation of the annual cycle of light in the Northern Arctic. From the GRID-Arendal website. From the UNEP/GRID-Arendal website.
Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association
The Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association provides information, programs, and support for teachers and other educators in the region.
A brief article about the growth and development of theatre and related cultural events in Canada’s North. Includes the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. From the Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre.
Tåîchô First Nation
An extensive website devoted to the Tåîchô First Nation, formerly the Dogrib First Nation. Features information about their culture, government, language, organizations, and business enterprises. Offers an illustrated history, a map of their traditional use area, an image of the Tåîchô flag, a gallery of work produced by community artists and craftspeople, and much more.
Native Communications Society of the NWT
The website for the Native Communications Society of the NWT, home of NCS TV and radio station CKLB, which broadcasts music, regional news, and current events to communities throughout the Northwest Territories.
Glossary of Water Management Terms
A glossary of terms related to pollutants found in the Canadian North. From the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Names of the provinces and territories
Abbreviations and symbols for the names of the provinces and territories. From the website for Natural Resources Canada.
Hunters at the Margin
Read the Introduction to "Hunters at the Margin," a book that focuses on issues concerning early efforts at wildlife management in Canada. From the website for University of British Columbia Press.
Aurora Research Institute
Check the website for the Aurora Research Institute for news about their latest research projects.
The Mackenzie Gas Project
The website for the Mackenzie Gas Project, a proposed 1,196-kilometre natural gas pipeline system along the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories which will connect northern onshore gas fields with North American markets. Click on the interactive map to view the pipeline's route.
Northwest Territories Tourism Association
See a listing of annual festivals and other events in the Northest Territories.
Northwest Territories Arts
Click on the interactive map to find information about seasonal festivities in various locations throughout the Northwest Territories.
Former N.W.T. commissioner dies at 95
A CBC News obituary for Gordon Robertson, an influential civil servant who was instrumental in shaping government policy in Canada's North.
Information about the devolution (transfer) of federal powers to the Government of the Northwest Territories. From the website for the Government of the Northwest Territories.