The boundaries of the region were subject to frequent change. The region north and sometimes east of Manitoba was established as the District of Keewatin in 1876. The boundaries of Manitoba were changed in 1877, and enlarged in 1881 and 1912. Yukon Territory was created in 1898; and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan created in 1905. Internally, 4 administrative districts were created in 1882: Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Athabaska. It was into these districts, in the southern portion of the Territories, that the great bulk of the settlement population would flow, and consequently on which most government attention was focused prior to 1905.
The region was first governed under "an Act for the Temporary Government of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory when united with Canada," passed in 1869. It provided a provisional government by a federally appointed lieutenant-governor and council, which governed initially from Winnipeg. In 1875 the NORTH-WEST TERRITORIES ACT provided a new framework: the governor and council would now operate from a territorial capital (first Battleford, then Regina), and as the settlement population increased, elected members would be added, until a territorial assembly which was substantially elective was created in 1888.
Despite the trappings of representative government, the region remained firmly under the control of the federal government. Ottawa negotiated the INDIAN TREATIES and administered subsequent native policy. It controlled the public lands and natural resources of the region throughout the period. It carefully controlled expenditure of the annual federal grant to the Territories, which comprised the bulk of government funds available for necessary public works such as roads, schools and bridges. Federal goals were clear: the region was to be developed in the national interest. Most of the 25 million acres (c 10.1 million ha) of land that went to support construction of the CPR, for example, came from the North-West Territories. Immigration and settlement were also promoted for reasons of national as well as regional development.
However well intentioned the federal government might have been, it was remarkably insensitive to the needs and desires of the western population. The most dramatic result of the grievances of Indians and Métis was the NORTH-WEST REBELLION of 1885. But the white population was also incensed over protective tariffs, exorbitant freight rates, centrally controlled land policy and niggardly federal grants. The belated creation of 4 parliamentary seats for the Territories, effective in the 1887 election, changed nothing.
The result was agitation led by F.W.G. HAULTAIN for more control in the hands of the locally elected assembly. Granting of responsible government in 1897 did not solve the basic problems of a territorial government with insufficient powers and resources to cope with the needs of a rapidly expanding settlement population. Demands for provincial autonomy were finally met in 1905 with the creation of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Author DAVID J. HALL
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps
Take a walk through the history of Canada. Select a year to see the maps and the history related to that era. From the "Canadian Geographic" 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.
An extensive biography of Edgar Dewdney, civil engineer, contractor, politician, office holder, and lieutenant governor. Provides details about his involvement with Indian and Métis communities in the North-West Territories, the settlement of the West, the construction of the transcontinental railway, and related events. From the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.”
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...