Saskatchewan is the only province with entirely artificial boundaries. It lies between the 49th and 60th parallels of latitude, bordered by the US and the Northwest Territories, and between long 101°30´ and 102° W and 110° W, bordered by Manitoba and Alberta.
Saskatchewan is the only province with entirely artificial boundaries. It lies between the 49th and 60th parallels of latitude, bordered by the US and the Northwest Territories, and between long 101°30´ and 102° W and 110° W, bordered by Manitoba and Alberta. It was created from the North-West Territories in 1905, at the same time as Alberta, and shares with that province the distinction of having no coast on salt water. The name, which was first used officially for a district of the North-West Territories in 1882, is derived from an anglicized version of a Cree word denoting a swiftly flowing river, which appears in a variety of spellings in early records.
When the prairie region was being made into provinces, the largest part of the old district bearing the name was incorporated into the new province. Saskatchewan, unlike the 3 provinces immediately east of it, is still the same size as it was when created: in round numbers, 1225 km long, 630 km wide across the south and 445 km across the north. Its area is 652 330 km2, of which 12.5% is fresh water.
Land and Resources
The Precambrian SHIELD, running diagonally southeast across Saskatchewan, from above 57° N latitude to almost 54° N, covers approximately the northern third of the province. The Shield is characterized by rugged rock exposures and many lakes, and includes a sandy region south of Lake Athabasca. South of the Shield, also diagonal from west to east, is the area commonly called the "grain belt," level or gently rolling plains marked by fertile soils that make Saskatchewan one of the world's great wheat producers.
On the western boundary and across the southwest corner is another plains region of generally higher altitudes, with rolling and hilly terrain distinct from that of the grain belt. In the extreme southwest the province shares with Alberta the CYPRESS HILLS, the highest point of land in Canada between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador. Much of Saskatchewan's landscape consists of undulating slopes, unlike the flat horizons featured in the stereotyped image of the Prairies.
Evidence of aboriginal occupation of Saskatchewan can be traced to at least 10 000 BC, when hunters followed the migratory herds of bison, leaving behind arrowheads and ashes. The first European explorers, most of them seeking routes for the fur trade, appeared late in the 17th century, and were in time joined by more scientific travellers who expanded knowledge of the area throughout the 19th century. Actual settlement was preceded in most sections by the establishment in 1873 of the North-West Mounted Police; afterwards homesteaders, attracted by land that was all but free, poured in at an accelerated rate.
The census of 1881 revealed 19 114 inhabitants, that of 1911, 492 432 and that of 1931, 921 785. Thereafter the population levelled off and even declined considerably, partly because WWII drained off people to the armed forces and industrial plants elsewhere; after 1961 the population fluctuated between 920 000 and 955 000 and the census of 1981 revealed the largest population yet, 968 313; by 1991 the population was 988 928, and the 1996 census showed an increase to 1 019 500. In 2001, the population was 978 933.
The first immigrants naturally chose to live in farming areas, and most residents still live in the southern half of Saskatchewan. But towns and villages were always necessary as supply depots for farm implements and related service industries, and with the rise of nonagricultural production rural areas have steadily lost population to urban ones.
Saskatchewan's economy, since settlement began, has been heavily dependent on influences that lie outside the province's boundaries. The earliest inhabitants of the area, nomads and hunters, were able to rely on creatures as indigenous as themselves. The earliest settlers, when favoured with good weather, were able to produce grains, and especially wheat, in far larger quantities than they could consume, and from the start of the modern era the province has been an exporter of a few staples, often unprocessed, to markets throughout the world.
Commonly the province has had little control over the transportation of its own products, or the financing of it, and this situation did not change as wheat was supplemented by natural gas, petroleum and potash. A high percentage of the consumer goods used in Saskatchewan, on the other hand, from canned food to automobiles and farm implements, come from outside. A recurring feeling among sections of the population is that the province's economy is the victim of outside forces that are not always benign.
This feeling provides one reason for the remarkable success of the CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT in Saskatchewan, through which citizens have banded together to satisfy numerous economic needs. Saskatchewan contains nearly 20% of all the co-operative associations in Canada, with individual memberships numbering over half of the population. The co-operatives are found in virtually every segment of the retailing and distributing trades, and in many service industries. In 2002, the province had 1300 cooperatives with 960 000 active members.
Government and Politics
The government of Saskatchewan in form resembles that of the other provinces. The executive consists of the lieutenant-governor and an executive council called the Cabinet, which in the name of the Crown exercises the real powers of government, with the aid of a public service organized into departments and crown corporations. The legislature is unicameral, and its members are elected in 66 single-member constituencies; the support of a majority of the members of the legislature is necessary for the continued life of a particular Cabinet. SeeSASKATCHEWAN LIEUTENANT-GOVERNORS: TABLE; SASKATCHEWAN PREMIERS: TABLE.
The leader of the majority is the premier, and his Cabinet colleagues are ministers, each with assigned responsibilities; the Leader of the Opposition is paid as if he were a minister. The province's judicial system is the usual hierarchy, with a Court of Appeal and a Court of Queen's Bench at the summit, and provincial courts (formerly magistrate's courts) below. The federal authority appoints all judges except for those of the provincial courts.
The parliamentary tradition is strong, and Saskatchewan is unique among the western provinces in that its legislature has never supported coalition governments for prolonged periods nor been dominated by one party to the virtual exclusion of an Opposition. Even during the life of the lone coalition, the Co-operative Government of 1929-34, the largest single party was the opposition. Since 1905, when the assembly had 25 members, of whom 3 had urban seats, until today when there is still a minority of urban seats, there has always been a vigorous Opposition, even though sometimes small numerically.
A second major tradition of government in Saskatchewan depends on a blurring of the line between public and private sectors: the government, no matter what party was in power, has not only encouraged citizens to develop co-operatives that competed with private enterprise but has not hesitated to go into business itself, as in the creation of a telephone system, a power corporation and most recently, an energy corporation.
The province inherited the beginnings of a public school system, as well as the idea for a university, from its territorial days. The rapid expansion of the population during the early settlement gave to the provision of teachers and schools a sense of urgency felt almost everywhere, and the upgrading of inadequately trained teachers and the replacement of makeshift premises were major preoccupations of Saskatchewan's first years. Many of the teachers at the start came from provinces to the east, but the new province created normal schools, whose work was in 1927 supplemented by a College of Education at the UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN; in due course the college absorbed the normal schools.
A striking feature of Saskatchewan's public schools is that both Protestant and Roman Catholic systems are public; eg, they are managed by separate elected boards of education and financed by taxes collected by the relevant municipal authority. The 2 public systems offer kindergarten to grade 12. In 1999-2000, there were over 188 000 students in public and separate schools, and over 2000 in independent schools. Where numbers warrant, Saskatchewan francophones may manage and control their own schools through elected francophone boards. There are also federally funded band-administered schools on native reserves throughout the province.
The University of Saskatchewan was established in 1909 with a solitary faculty of arts, a teaching staff of 5 and 70 students. By the mid-1990s, the university had 13 colleges (faculties), a teaching staff of some 1000 and 15 144 full-time students in 2000. In 1974 the UNIVERSITY OF REGINA was created out of the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan. In 1999, it had 9142 full-time students.
In recognition of its significant native and Métis population, Saskatchewan has developed a culturally sensitive curriculum and unique system for delivering educational services by aboriginal people to aboriginal people. The Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, affiliated with the University of Regina, is the only fully accredited aboriginal university in Canada. It offers a range of programs. The Gabriel Dumont Institute is the educational arm of the Métis Nations of Saskatchewan, promoting the renewal and development of native culture. The Institute administers programs such as the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program, which helps native and Métis students become teachers and role models in the communities.
The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) is the main vehicle for the delivery of technical vocational skill training as well as adult basic education and some university credit courses in the province. SIAST total enrolment in 2000-2001 exceeded 40 000 students at its campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.
A system of 9 regional colleges, with offices throughout the province, provides a wide range of adult and post-secondary courses, career counselling and other student services to residents of rural and northern Saskatchewan. In 1994 there were over 36 000 registrants at regional colleges.
The basic instrument of educational policy is the Department of Education. The department is responsible for developing legislation and policy affecting all levels of education and provides financial support for most public education programs in Saskatchewan.
Much of the artistic energy of the indigenous peoples went into artifacts connected with the hunt, and the making of decorated leather clothing and moccasins has survived. There are petroglyphs on outcrops at Roche Percée, in the southeast. The Europeans brought their own crafts with them, and the significance of handicrafts in Saskatchewan's development is reflected in the seriousness with which they are still taken. When in 1948 the Saskatchewan Arts Board was created, the first governmental body of its kind on the continent, it treated crafts from the start as art forms, and the provincial crafts exhibition held each summer under official auspices is a highlight of the cultural year. The arts board is an independent organization that encourages and funds a wide variety of artistic endeavours.
Even before the Saskatchewan Arts Board was created, there was a certain amount of artistic endeavour in Saskatchewan. Artists such as Ernest LINDNER, Augustus KENDERDINE and James Henderson had an important impact on the province, and the symphonies in Regina and Saskatoon were well established. The province's 2 largest cities also boasted "little theatres."
With its initial budget of $4000, the board undertook projects which reflected the range of its concerns and ambitions, from beginning the permanent collection of Saskatchewan visual art to circulating lists of recommended books and beginning a scholarship program for arts training. In the 1950s, the board began organizing workshops in arts and crafts, creative writing and drama which later evolved into the internationally known Saskatchewan School of the Arts.
This independent organization continues to encourage and fund a wide variety of artistic endeavours. From its initial size the board's budget has grown to over $4 million, $3.7 million of which is provided by the province. Arts and culture are further supported by the Saskatchewan Council of Cultural Organizations, established in 1979 to distribute lottery funds collected by the province.
The earliest human inhabitants of the area that became Saskatchewan, who left almost no written records, were native people grouped roughly from north to south as follows: 3 tribes of the Athapaskan linguistic group, the CHIPEWYAN and, to the west of them, the Amisk (or BEAVER), north of whom were the SLAVEY; 2 groups speaking Algonquian, the CREE and, west and south of them, the BLACKFOOT; 2 groups of the Siouan group, the ASSINIBOINE and, west of them, the Gros Ventres. Each of the 3 main language groups occupied approximately a third of the area, those in the north depending heavily on caribou and moose as a staple food, those in the southern third (ie, that part which is now the agricultural belt) on the buffalo. All of them had a considerable influence in providing place names throughout the province.
To this day some of the northern native people have limited contact with people of European descent. Others, especially those close to waterways, were in contact with non-natives as early as 1690, when Henry KELSEY, an employee of the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY, followed the Saskatchewan River west to the area that is now Prince Albert and then proceeded south into the plains. Thereafter exploration continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1870 not only were the main water routes well known, but the prairie was crisscrossed by well-worn trails, some of whose routes are still visible from the air.
Although nonagricultural production constitutes over half of Saskatchewan's annual output, agriculture remains the largest single industry. The settled era began almost exclusively as a farm economy, with nearly 460 000 hectares planted to wheat in the year of the province's creation, yielding 26 million bushels. With setbacks occasioned by the Depression years of the 1930s, when drought helped reduce all rural activities, and WWII, when some overseas markets for wheat almost disappeared, wheat acreage has grown steadily throughout the province's history and now tops 8 million hectares annually.
Saskatchewan is incomparably the largest wheat producer in Canada and one of the largest in the world: in 2000, the province grew over 13 500 t of wheat. The province is also a leader in the production of canola (over 1300 t) and rye (over 98 t), and is always among the largest producers of oats (over 1300 t), barley (over 5400 t), flax (470 t) and forage crops and pasturage for livestock, which, since they do not all enter the market, are harder to measure.
The province's livestock industry, though not comparable to its grains, is always an important element in the agricultural economy; farms reporting significant sales of cattle and hogs constitute roughly one-fifth of the number reporting significant wheat sales.
Like all modern agricultural economies, Saskatchewan's is characterized by a diminution in the number of farms and a growth in the size of those surviving. Saskatchewan has the smallest proportion of small- to moderate-sized farms in Canada, while those yielding annual sales of $25 000 or more number about 30 000. The same dwindling number of farms continues to provide one of the country's largest markets for farm vehicles and machinery, and the total net income from farming in Saskatchewan remains the largest in Canada. In 2001, total cash receipts were over $6.5 billion.
Saskatchewan is not in a conventional sense a manufacturing centre; in 1999 these goods totalled $6.5 billion. Manufacturing establishments employ about 28 000 people. Most manufactured goods that are exported go to other parts of Canada.
Saskatchewan's industrial economy has always been affected by the relatively small provincial market. What the province produces well it produces in enormous quantities. The Saskatchewan internal market is in many ways more economically served by imports. While a number of attempts were made to establish major industries (Regina obtained an automobile assembly plant in 1928), the province was in the wrong location, and with the wrong resources, to share in the huge industrial expansion of WWII. Nonagricultural production in the 1980s was larger and more varied than it had ever been, but Saskatchewan is still a long way from posing a threat to central Canada as an industrial heartland.
From the 1950s the development of mining in Saskatchewan was almost as spectacular, though not as conspicuous, as that of agricultural settlement half a century earlier. In 1950 the total value of all mineral production was barely $34 million, of which nearly 80% was of metals, mostly copper and zinc; 15% fuels, mostly coal; and most of the rest was sodium sulphate. By the 1980s mining ranked second to agriculture as a contributor to the province's production; the 3 largest items, oil, potash and uranium, had been of negligible importance in 1950.
Crude petroleum accounted for 3.3% of all mineral production in 1950, and 45% in 1993. In 2000 the province produced 151 million barrels of crude, and is the nation's second-largest producing province.
In 1950 no potash was mined. The province is the largest potash producer in the world, and sales for Saskatchewan potash exceed $1 billion yearly. Ninety-five percent of the potash produced in Saskatchewan is for export particularly to the US, which imports about two-thirds of total production. In 1950 uranium was not being mined; by the 1980s one large mine had already been, in economic terms, worked out, but remarkably rich deposits remained elsewhere. The province is the largest uranium producing-region in the world, accounting for 30% of world annual production.
Forestry does not provide one of Saskatchewan's largest industries, although where it exists it is of great local significance. The rapid opening of the prairies for settlement created a demand for building materials, not just for farm buildings but also for railway ties and telegraph poles; the closer settlement moved to the northern forest, the more local wood could be used. Pulpwood, which utilizes smaller growth than lumber, was cut for export as early as the 1920s, but the province's first pulp mill was not built until the 1960s, and then with substantial assistance from the government.
Saskatchewan wood is used for lumber, particle board and plywood, poles and fence posts, and pulp, but the total cut, in statistical terms, used to make a minor contribution to the province's economy. However, in 1997, $700 million in sales generated 6000 direct jobs and 3000 indirect jobs through 300 forestry industry firms. The forest industries are nonetheless sufficiently active that native leaders frequently express concern over the damage caused to wildlife habitat.
Fisheries rank well below forestry as a contributor to the province's economy, competing for rank with wildlife trapping and fur farming, for an annual production of $3-4 million, chiefly in walleye, whitefish, lake trout and pike. Three-quarters of the commercial activity is in the north, while in the grain belt a fairly common sight is the rainbow trout dugout, a licensed artificial pond in which individual farmers, several hundred a year, raise fish for their own use. Of unknown commercial value, but significant to the tourist industry, is the province's rich supply of game fish and edible wild animals. From 5% to 10% of the sportfishing and hunting licences issued annually go to visitors, most of them from neighbouring American states.
Farming and mining both require a great amount of capital, and Saskatchewan has always had to supplement what it could create with heavy inflows from financial centres elsewhere. No major Canadian bank or trust company has its head office in the province, and the provincial government routinely floats loans in American money markets. The province's total debt in 2001 was $11.1 billion.
In 1985 there were only about 380 branches of chartered banks throughout the province, each village serving a farming area ordinarily having one. It is part of the province's traditional beliefs that banks exploit as well as serve those in debt to them; this response, together with the citizens' confidence in co-operative ventures, led to a widespread network of credit unions, in effect banks owned by their own local customers. In 2002 there were 132 credit unions, with 600 000 members.
The provincial government pioneered in its own financial enterprises when in October 1944 the legislature passed the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Act. The Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office (SGI; 1945) handles most kinds of property casualty insurance and is particularly involved in automobile insurance, which Saskatchewan also pioneered in 1944 by implementing the Automobile Insurance Act, the first in North America. Today, SGI has 2 entities, the automobile fund and SGI Canada. The automobile fund is a self-sufficient fund; SGI Canada is a registered trademark under which SGI's general insurance products are marketed.
Saskatchewan is captive to transportation issues due to the vast distances to ship products to market. The least difficult usually are in air transport, for the province is served by the usual network of major and minor airlines, none of which are involved in moving its bulkiest products. In the north, where some communities are readily accessible only by air, unpredictable weather is the worst factor to be dealt with.
On the surface, on the other hand, the long distances between points, the absence of navigable waters, and the sheer quantities of wheat and potash to be hauled make both highways and railways of overwhelming importance. Potash can be moved directly from the mines to the railways, but grains must be carried by truck from each farm before entering the elevator for subsequent shipment by rail. Mainline railway track in Saskatchewan accounts for 11% of the total in Canada (over 3700 km).
Saskatchewan roads under provincial jurisdiction are the longest in Canada per capita, and when municipal responsibilities are added, many of which include rural roads essential to farms, the province's road total is in absolute terms the longest in Canada: over 200 000 km. Railways are under federal jurisdiction, but roads and highways are provincial: a major item in every provincial budget, vying for position behind health and education, is transportation. The province has $140 million in its General Revenue Fund for 2001-2002 for highway maintenance and operations.
A special problem of Saskatchewan rail transportation, often vexatious enough in itself but also entirely beyond the province's jurisdiction, arises from work stoppages elsewhere in the grain-handling and transportation system. Saskatchewan farmers are aware that they are landlocked; it is a hazard of their occupation that their grain is sometimes held up by labour-management disputes in ports far away.
Generously endowed with real and potential sources of energy, Saskatchewan exports what it does in forms other than electricity. Through the Saskatchewan Power Corporation, established in 1949 out of a provincial commission 20 years older, the province generates large amounts of power in conventional ways, but not nuclear, and it neither imports nor exports significant quantities.
Domestically the governmental agency enjoys a monopoly over power production and natural gas distribution; and farms, homes and mines are supplied at rates that compare favourably with those elsewhere. The province's total electric energy supply in 1999 was 18, 041 GWh. About a third of electricity is from electric energy supply, and the long lines of transmission towers from sites in the north are conspicuous on the landscape. Thermal units producing power are primarily fired by coal, which accounts for the remainder. Generation from oil is negligible, but oil still heats many homes, particularly in rural areas. Urban homes are more likely to be warmed by natural gas, piped to each one by the Saskatchewan Energy Corporation (1989).
Saskatchewan has developed its own municipal system, in which townships and counties are not known as governing units, although a measured area may be called a township. There are urban and rural municipalities which include cities, towns and villages, the rural municipalities having been created originally through provincial policy rather than through local demand. The part of the north not administered by northern towns and hamlets receives municipal services through provincial initiatives.
The municipal governments provide the usual housekeeping facilities: streets, police, water, sewage disposal and hospitals in the urban areas; roads, help with problems of drainage and weed control in the rural. Municipal governments, often reluctantly, also collect taxes for other local spending authorities, the largest of which are school districts. The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities are respected political forces.
Saskatchewan has never loomed large in numbers in Parliament, but its representatives have included many notably vocal individuals. The province usually has at least one Cabinet member at Ottawa; 2 prime ministers, King and Diefenbaker, sat for Saskatchewan seats for prolonged periods. One federal minister, James GARDINER, held a portfolio (agriculture) for a longer consecutive period than any other individual in Canadian history.
In 1905 the province had 4 senators, which rose to 6 in 1915, where it has stayed. Its Commons delegation has never exceeded 8.6% of the total membership (in 1925-35, when it had 21 MPs) and is now, barring a constitutional amendment, pegged at 14 in a House whose total membership will rise after each decennial census. On one occasion (1952), when the rules for dividing parliamentary seats among the provinces would have dropped Saskatchewan's share from 20 to 15, a change was enacted to drop it to 17 only. The influence of the province's parliamentary representation has never depended primarily on numbers but on the quality of those elected.
Governmental expenditures in Saskatchewan, as elsewhere, grew rapidly after WWII and in 1981 for the first time passed $2 billion. The main sources of taxation are individual income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, and corporation income tax. The Saskatchewan Heritage Fund provided another 25% and receipts from other governments (almost all of them from federal sources) 30%. The Heritage Fund, established in the 1970s and drawing its income from nonrenewable resources, received 81% of its income from oil and 8% from potash and uranium. Total provincial revenue from all sources in 1999-2000 was $5.8 billion. Main expenditures from the General Revenue Fund are public services, social services, and salaries and operating administration.
Public health policies in Saskatchewan predate the province's creation in 1905, but the province nonetheless pioneered in comprehensive extensions of health care. The hospital services plan, which became effective in 1947, provided universal hospital care insurance throughout the province: every qualified citizen has since 1947 been provided with a card assuring hospital care when needed, at public expense. The hospital plan provided part of the foundation for universal prepaid medical care, as did the establishment of a medical faculty and teaching hospital at the University of Saskatchewan.
Medicare was enacted in 1961 and inaugurated in 1962, after considerable tension between the government and the medical profession, which resulted in many doctors withdrawing their services for a month. Since 1962 the hospital and medicare plans have been supplemented by a dental plan (1974) and a prescription plan (1975). In the 1980s the dental plan was not universal but was limited to categories of school children, and the prescription service was not fully prepaid but imposed a standard dispensing fee for each prescription.
The lively partisan traditions of Saskatchewan are reflected in its election results: in the 7 general elections up to 1986, the winning party won over 50% of the vote only twice. The Liberals were chosen to form the first administration in 1905 and won the first 6 elections handily, although always facing Opposition groups with considerable support.
The Liberals' early successes, in keeping with the mores of the day, produced a public service weighted with patronage appointments, an issue used against the party in 1929. The basic issue of the 1929 election, however, about which vast ill-feeling was generated, turned on the use of the schools for religious purposes, and a loose coalition of Conservatives, Progressives and Independents defeated the government. The Co-operative government then formed fell in turn a victim to drought and depression, and not one of its candidates was elected in 1934.
After another decade of Liberal rule, the province in 1944 elected North America's first socialist government, in the CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION, or CCF. The CCF (known later in Saskatchewan as the CCF-NDP and finally as the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY) lasted 20 years, after which the Liberals returned for the years 1964-71. The NDP came back for 1971-82, and in 1982 the Progressive CONSERVATIVES, who had all but disappeared between 1934 and the 1970s, won their first victory in their own right and were returned to power again in 1986. The NDP returned to power in 1991 under premier Roy Romanow. His success at battling the deficit was rewarded with a second majority in 1995. Lorne Calvert was elected leader of the NDP in 2001, and assumed the Premier's duties shortly thereafter.
The volatility of the Saskatchewan electorate is less evidence of a capacity to swing from left to right than it is of the parties' practices in rarely differing fundamentally in what they offer. The CCF was plainly the furthest left of the parties, with the Liberals and Conservatives on the right; but the Liberals after 1964, for example, did not dismantle the health and welfare policies or the public enterprises of the preceding CCF, which had in turn built on foundations laid by the Liberals. In a similar way, the province's relations with Ottawa, generally good, have depended primarily not on which parties were in power in each place but on the provincial government's perception, regardless of its partisan outlook, of the province's needs.
Regina's GLOBE THEATRE (1966) was Saskatchewan's first professional theatre. It was followed by Saskatoon's 25TH STREET THEATRE (1972), which focuses on indigenous works. 25th Street Theatre also hosts the international fringe festival, which attracts over 50 000 people each summer. Another Saskatchewan professional theatre, Persephone (1974), produces a mixture of Canadian and international works. Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan is a popular summer tourist attraction on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery, housed in the recently completed T.C. Douglas Building, began as a part of the U of Regina. Saskatoon's Mendel Art Gallery, Prince Albert's Little Gallery and the Estevan National Exhibition Centre are a few of the other major art galleries. The major galleries, along with dozens of commercial ones scattered across the province, show works of ceramists made from the province's rich deposits of clays.
Many Saskatchewan writers have been recognized with national and international awards. Guy VANDERHAEGHE, Patrick Land and Robert Calder are some who have been awarded the Governor General's Award for Literature. The Saskatchewan Writer's Guild has a membership of over 700 professional and amateur writers.
Absentee ownership is a striking characteristic of the media in the province, but since all the outlets in both print and broadcasting have to cater to local communities the effect of so much external ownership is not conspicuous. The major cities support daily newspapers, and smaller centres are served by journals published less frequently, most of them weeklies. Several articulate magazines of literary or political bent struggle constantly for existence, and there are also periodicals that express the particular interests of native and Métis associations.
Radio is as important in the north as the telegraph was formerly throughout the Prairies. Few communities in the 1990s, however remote, are beyond the reach of radio, and the national services of the CBC are distributed through stations in Regina and La Ronge, the latter being one of the most northerly villages accessible by road. Television signals, their distribution facilitated by microwave towers and satellite stations, reach all the settled areas; and cable TV, beginning in the late 1970s, widened the range of domestic outlets and also, for the first time, made programs originating in the US available to most viewers in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan's native peoples found a renewed interest in their history as their awareness of their common aspirations grew in the 1970s and 1980s. The descendants of the European settlers, whose occupation was so recent, have also been sensitive to their past. The province is dotted with national and provincial historic sites, the most northerly of them marking early missions, the rest variously celebrating fur posts, the first newspaper, Mounted Police depots, colonies of settlers, old trails, the founding of a grain growers' organization or a steamship landing.
Hundreds of local histories were written around the province's diamond jubilee in 1980, most of them with the help of the Saskatchewan Archives Board, a co-operative university-government venture established in 1945. Between the records around the historic sites and those of the homestead applications and the land titles office, more detailed information is available about Saskatchewan since its European settlement than about most places.
The earliest European explorers travelled the prairies for no more laudable reason than moneymaking: the felt hat was fashionable in the late 17th century, and the best felt came from beaver. Even before the first fur traders the plains were well known to many, for the various native peoples moved about following the migrations of caribou and buffalo herds, and the boundaries of the regions occupied by the main groups were never clearly defined. Paradoxically, the native people are rarely thought of as explorers, perhaps because they had different motives from the Europeans, but also because they did not need maps and left no records.
The Europeans, once they had discovered the usefulness of the plains for their purposes, wasted little time in moving in. The Hudson's Bay Company was 2 decades old when Kelsey first saw Saskatchewan in 1690. LA VÉRENDRYE then explored some of southeastern Saskatchewan in the late 1730s and he was followed by several more of English extraction, of whom the best known is probably Peter POND. None penetrated north of the Churchill River until 1796, when David THOMPSON explored the area before heading to Lake Athabasca. At that time little was known of the southern third of the province, but in 1800 Peter FIDLER crossed the area using the South Saskatchewan. The primary interest of most of the early explorers was exploitation of the fur resources, and that, unfortunately, often included exploitation of the aboriginal peoples.
Not all the native people cared about the fur trade, the Plains Cree especially having few opportunities for trapping. Native people who were in the trade often became increasingly dependent on one particular fort or post - by the late 18th century such settlements dotted the fur-bearing areas - and often also on alcohol, which was used shamelessly as an element in competition between non-native traders.
Not all exploration had selfish motives, and men interested in the land and the environment entered the region a century behind the traders. The best known of the early observers were Sir John FRANKLIN and Dr John RICHARDSON, between 1819 and 1827, and John PALLISER, 1857-58; and coincidentally with the PALLISER EXPEDITION, which was British, the Province of Canada dispatched Henry HIND with a colleague to assess agricultural possibilities. By the middle of the 19th century the domination of the prairies by the fur trade was being threatened.
A sequence of events in the 19th century determined that the Prairies were to be settled primarily by peoples of European ancestry. The foundation was laid by the acquisition of Rupert's Land from the HBC and its subsequent transfer to Canada shortly after Confederation in 1870. A series of treaties with the native people, beginning in 1871, established the natives on reserves in a manner that suggested that the rest of the land was for somebody else. The treaties were negotiated with the help of the North-West Mounted Police, an adaptation to the plains of a European institution. The defeat of the Métis under RIEL in 1885, in a rebellion in which land was a major issue, meant among other things that the Métis were not the chosen people. Concurrently with this period Parliament in 1872 passed the first Dominion Lands Act, a provision for homesteaders, and an Act to stimulate immigration. In 1882-83 the first railway lines crossed the area, in a southern route through Regina and Moose Jaw. The prerequisites for immigration and settlement were thus all in place well before 1900.
The impact of their combined influence shows dramatically in the statistics. In 1885 the population of the area was 32 097, of whom half were British and 44% were native. Three censuses later, in 1911, the population was 492 432, of which half was still British, but the native peoples had dropped to 2.4%. The British element by then had consolidated its hold on familiar political institutions: the principles of responsible government, which held the Cabinet responsible to a majority of the legislature, had been settled in 1897.
Provincial status, first sought in 1900, came in 1905, and with it the relevant apparatus of parliamentary government. The province's size and shape were important; although many leading prairie politicians favoured one large western province, the federal authorities always insisted that the western plains were too large to be made into a single constitutional entity. Depending on where one settled its northern boundary, such a province could have been the largest in Canada, a potential economic threat to the central heartland. In any event, in 1905 the federal government retained in federal hands the jurisdiction over crown lands in Saskatchewan.
Alienation of the land which, shortly after 1905, included over 6 million hectares for railway grants and 1.6 million for the support of schools, proceeded for settlement in a generally northwesterly direction, most of the arable area being occupied by the 1930s. The pattern of settlement itself profoundly affected the nature of Saskatchewan society. Identifiable groups of immigrants, varying from English people desiring to set up a temperance colony to DOUKHOBORS escaping persecution with the aid of Leo Tolstoy and the Society of Friends (seeQUAKERS), established communities which in the 1980s still reflected their origins. Time, social mobility and intermarriage have blurred the lines separating the original settlements, but many parts of the province were still discernibly French and German, Ukrainian and Scandinavian, Hutterite and Mennonite.
Immigration en masse into Saskatchewan had ended at least temporarily by the 1930s, although a high turnover in the population did not stop. A population of barely a million can absorb only limited numbers of artisans, artists and other professionals, and the province's modern history is marked by the steady departure of energetic people born and educated in Saskatchewan. Sometimes, as in the 2 world wars, thousands left over a short period to enlist or to work in war industries, and many did not return. At the same time, migration inwards of trained people did not end, as the universities grew and as industries attracted professionals and administrators.
The maturing of the population meant also a slackening of the hold of the English-speaking Protestant establishment on political institutions. In the early years, citizens of non-British origin did not often seek election to Parliament or the assembly, and even more rarely were they elected. By the 1970s people with names that were recognizably continental European were working successfully at all levels of politics and administration, often attaining high office. In earlier times religion or national origin frequently decided how sides were chosen over such varied issues as languages in the schools, women's suffrage, or prohibition; and similar divisions can still occur over, for example, abortion. But in the 1990s citizens of every origin are more likely to be found on both sides of most controversies.
Economically, the most significant single event of Saskatchewan's modern history was the transfer of jurisdiction over crown lands to the province in 1930. Without this authority, the province was still able to become a great agricultural producer, and it would still have been able to make the remarkable contribution to the war effort that it did from 1939 to 1945. But with it the province did not merely have access to lucrative sources of taxation; it also had new sources of power which affected its influence within Canada in the 1970s and after, and gave it, despite its small population, a formidable voice in national affairs.
Wheat, once the plains were settled, was always a large factor in Canada's international dealings. In modern Saskatchewan wheat has been joined by potash and several forms of precious energy. The province's economy since the drought and Depression decade of the 1930s has shown an impressive capacity for diversification in both agricultural and nonagricultural production. In all this it has been assisted by a sequence of lively and progressive governments supported and trusted by a lively and progressive electorate.
Saskatchewan has no metropolitan centre, but its urban population grew from a negligible early beginning to 63% by 1994, while the rural farm population declined from a dominant position to less than 40%. Even so, only 2 cities are of even moderate size: SASKATOON (pop 196 816) and REGINA (pop 178 225), with MOOSE JAW (pop 32 631), PRINCE ALBERT (pop 34 752), North Battleford (pop 17 117), YORKTON (pop 15 222), and SWIFT CURRENT (pop 14 815) following.
The cities are joined by a grid of east-west, north-south highways, and each serves a surrounding rural area as a market town and shipping centre. Regina and Saskatoon, especially, serve respectively as southern and northern economic "capitals," containing the wholesale houses that provide surrounding retailers with the multitude of consumer goods necessary to the late 20th century.
Prince Albert, as the province's most northerly city, performs a special function as a "gateway to the north," of particular importance as the point of departure for recreational and forest areas. Despite its large urban population, Saskatchewan's vast expanses of open landscape, combined with the conspicuous architecture of GRAIN ELEVATORS in the villages and towns, continue to convey the impression of a predominantly agricultural province.
Saskatchewan's labour force has naturally reflected the changes in the provincial economy, as urban workers have steadily replaced farmers and their helpers. Union organization began around the turn of the century in Moose Jaw and Regina, principally among skilled tradesmen in printing and railways; but the development of the economy did not encourage influential union activity of the kind familiar in heavily industrialized communities.
The largest single unions are not primarily of steelworkers or automobile makers, but of teachers and public servants, although unions are active in such areas as the retail and wholesale trades and in oil and potash. Provincial governments under the CCF and NDP were perceived as being particularly friendly to organized labour.
Although the province was one of the chief sufferers during the GREAT DEPRESSION and drought of the 1930s, the technology of later decades has been more conducive to sustaining its labour force. One factor is that Saskatchewan has been an exporter of labour to other provinces, but whatever the reasons the province since 1977, in sharp contrast to the 1930s, has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada. The 2001 unemployment rate was 5.8%, compared with the national rate of 7.2%. Saskatchewan also has had one the highest proportions of married women in the labour force.
Language and Ethnicity
Saskatchewan's population speaks mainly English only. However, over 12% have a mother tongue other than English or French. The same population offered a striking variety of mother tongues, the languages first spoken in the home.
The current situation is in marked contrast to the beginnings. When the settlement of Saskatchewan began in earnest, residents of French origin slightly outnumbered those of British, but both comprised less than 11% of the population; almost all the rest were aboriginal peoples. The influx of settlers brought few new French (migration from Québec to the West was considered by some influential clergy to be a form of exile), but it did bring large numbers of British and other Europeans whose descendants, in one or two generations, also became English-speaking. The result was that by 1991 citizens of French origin had dropped to just over 3% of the population, ranking behind the British (16.5%), German and Austrian (12.7%), Aboriginal (6.8%), Ukrainian (5.7%), Canadian (3%) and Scandinavian (2.4%). Significant numbers of people of Asian origin appeared in the 1970s and 1980s.
By 1996 citizens of French origin had dropped to just about 2% of the population, ranking behind the British, Europeans, and Aboriginal ethnic origins. The high ratio of British to French has had important implications for provincial policies on language and education, for English has always been unquestionably the dominant language, and those interested in the teaching of other languages, or in conducting regular schooling in other languages, always faced formidable obstacles.
The use of French was at one time confined to primary courses, and in 1931 French was prohibited as a medium of instruction; other languages fared less well. In the 1960s, however, the province began to take a more relaxed view towards French in the schools, and public schools teaching the regular curriculum in French began to appear.
Religion in Saskatchewan has always been connected with language and ethnicity, as the incoming settlers naturally tended to congregate in communities where they hoped to practise their religion and, if possible, to have their children educated in their own language. The largest Protestant denomination in modern Saskatchewan is the United Church (22.8% of adherents), which follows behind the Roman Catholic (30.4%) (1991).
Considerably smaller are the Lutheran (8.4%) and Anglican (7.2%), and then the Mennonite, Ukrainian Catholic, Baptist, Greek Orthodox and Presbyterian, with less than 3% each. The advent of television gave numerous fundamentalist religions access to the population, and by the 1980s they appeared to be the most rapidly growing churches.
Throughout the province's history, religious groups have been active in expressing their views on such varied social issues as prohibition, immigration, education and the language used in schools. Religious factors lie behind the division of the province's public schools into Protestant and Roman Catholic systems, and a particularly bitter confrontation occurred in the late 1920s when the KU KLUX KLAN took the lead in inflaming the electorate over religious symbols (specifically Catholic) in the schools. The Conservative Party was perceived at the time to have Klan support, and hence some Catholic voters thereafter were thought to be supporters of the party's opponents; but in 1982 the party, led by a Roman Catholic, won an overwhelming victory.
Large areas of Saskatchewan once formed the bottom of a sea that departed millions of years ago. In geological terms much of the modern landscape is relatively young, having been shaped during the Quaternary period; ie, within the last million or so years. The oldest formations, the Precambrian, predated the sea, and there is evidence of impressive mountain ranges that eroded over time into the plains characteristic of today. Erosion, molten uprisings, the ebb and flow of the sea and its attendant water courses all contributed in different geological eras to the development of the formations in which are now found the grain belt, gas and oil fields, and deposits of salt, clays, coals, potash and other valuable minerals.
The main geological influence of the Quaternary period in Saskatchewan was GLACIATION, which variously polished and scarred substantial areas of exposed rock, and left rich sediments elsewhere. The glaciers moved southwest across the land, leaving behind lakes that at their largest covered most of the province, and marking the landscape with drumlins, eskers and moraines. (The buildings on the University of Saskatchewan's campus are made largely of multicoloured stone deposited by the glaciers.) At one time or another the glaciers touched all of Saskatchewan except for 2 small pockets of high land in the extreme south, which still have flora and fauna showing significant variations from their counterparts in the rest of the province. The last glaciers melted in the south approximately 16 000 to 18 000 years ago, and further north as recently as 8000 years ago.
Generally inhospitable to agriculture because of the climate and thin soil, the northern third of the province is marked by swamp and muskeg, lichened rock, and forest characteristic of the Shield. The altitudes of the grain belt drop markedly from west to east, and from south to north; levels of 600 and 900 m above sea level, common in the west and south, slope to 150 and 300 m in the east and north, causing the province's extensive river systems to flow to Hudson Bay. The soils permit agricultural settlement in what is roughly the southern half of the province; in the northern half the climate is inimical to the use of what little arable land there is. The cultivated areas of the southern portion depend on a variety of soils, predominantly brown and black, whose texture ranges from loamy sands to clays.
Saskatchewan's natural vegetation is divided from north to south into 6 fairly distinct zones, all of which cross the province diagonally southeast. A band of subarctic forest tundra exists along the northern boundary, and south of that is a broad region of northern coniferous forest, with a third band of mixed woods below that. The northern agricultural belt is aspen parkland, the central is midgrass prairie, and the southernmost is short grass prairie. Each of the 6 zones corresponds roughly to particular soil deposits. Soil erosion is a continuing problem in the province: the broad river systems providing one type and the winds, so well known that they are a familiar element in prairie literature, creating another.
A superficial view of maps of Saskatchewan suggests that the province has an abundance of WATER, both on the surface and in aquifers occurring at varying depths, and in important ways the abundance is real. The province is drained by parts of 4 major basins, the Mackenzie and Churchill in the north, the Saskatchewan and Qu'Appelle-Assiniboine in the south. The larger aquifers are estimated to be capable of yielding about 10% of the annual flow of the South SASKATCHEWAN RIVER. But aquifers can be tapped only through technology that may be expensive, with individual wells generally not large producers; and much of the most accessible surface water is in the north, where agricultural settlement is minimal.
Both agriculture and industrial development (particularly the production of potash) require large amounts of water, and Saskatchewan is heavily dependent on river flows and precipitation, neither of which is amenable to provincial control. The river systems in the agricultural sector utilize water that comes mainly from snow melt in the Rocky Mountains, and snowfall there is subject to wide variations. Precipitation within the province is similarly unreliable, and what does arrive may suffer high rates of evaporation. A characteristic feature of the Saskatchewan farming landscape is the dugout, a large excavation designed to catch the spring runoff from the fields.
Annual precipitation in the province varies enormously, both for the province as a whole and for the differing zones within it. The celebrated drought of the 1930s was intensive and widespread, but it was most severe in the south and diminished northwards into the parkland. The average annual precipitation runs from a few centimetres to about 50, the fall generally becoming increasingly heavy from the southwest to the northeast. Irrigation - although the province's terrain in many areas seems adaptable to it - has not progressed far beyond the experimental stage; much was expected from the elongated Lake Diefenbaker backed up behind the Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River, but irrigation developments have been small.
The climate of Saskatchewan can in one year include many extremes. Three main climatic zones, corresponding roughly to the main zones of vegetation, cross the province, and range from cold snowy areas in the north, which have brief summers, through more moderate areas in the grain belt, to semi-arid steppes in the southwest. January temperatures below -50° C and July temperatures above 40° C have been recorded, as have January temperatures well above freezing and July temperatures well below. Days free of frost can number from 60 to over 100 in any year.
In the arable sections the last spring frost usually comes in early June, and the first in autumn in early September. The relatively short growing season profoundly affects what agriculture can produce in Saskatchewan, for grains are sensitive to frost from germination until harvest. In one sense the number of frost-free days is a misleading indicator of the growing season, as the province's northern setting also produces in the summer early sunrises and late sunsets. In the grain belt, on June 21 the sun rises before 5 am and sets after 9:30 pm. For the same reason winter days are short: on December 21 sunrise is after 9 am and sunset at 5 pm. Blizzards in winter and thunderstorms in summer are common features of the climate, and the southern half of the province is occasionally visited by tornadoes.
Saskatchewan's climate is often given part of the credit for the province's vigorous communal and co-operative life, the long winters allegedly obliging the population to provide offsetting social developments. Winter also produces a unique export: disproportionately large numbers of gifted hockey players.
Soils and water are the fundamental resources of any heavily agricultural region, but added to them in recent decades have been increasingly important discoveries and developments of a nonagricultural nature. The most spectacular of these have been in minerals. Saskatchewan in the mid-1990s ranked third among the provinces in mineral production, although its wealth in metallic resources, abundant elsewhere in Canada, was generally negligible. But the province contains immensely valuable deposits of POTASH and URANIUM, whose use depends on factors beyond provincial jurisdiction, and of fossil fuels that can to some degree be refined and consumed locally. Saskatchewan contains Canada's largest potash resources, and ranks second in uranium and petroleum. It has significant deposits of fuels, especially natural gas, and clays.
The forest resources are limited by soil and climate. Even so, nearly three-quarters of the province is wooded, and nearly one-half of the stands yield a harvest; Saskatchewan ranks ninth among provincial forest inventories, and it has more soft than hard woods. In dry years losses from fire are high, not only in the immediate destruction of potential pulp and lumber, but in the loss of habitat for wildlife, which variously supports recreational and commercial fishing, trapping and other hunting, which in the north are essential to the native peoples.
Saskatchewan's mammals include most of those familiar on the Canadian landscape, although 2 of the largest in the west are rarely sighted; the COUGAR is still seen, but evidence of the GRIZZLY BEAR has all but disappeared. The province is a main flyway for an abundance of waterfowl and songbirds, and supports a lush insect life which both impedes and helps agriculture. The wildlife is a major factor in attracting hunters and fishermen, and the province ranks fourth in the value of wild pelts taken. The commercial freshwater fisheries, although valuable locally where they exist, are among the smallest in Canada.
Saskatchewan has for decades assumed that CONSERVATION principles applied not just to "natural resources" but to humans as well, and its government pioneered in publicly supported medical care, advanced labour legislation and the protection of civil rights. Human occupations have led to further conservation of such essentials as water, and the province is the chief beneficiary of a major federal statute, the PRAIRIE FARM REHABILITATION ACT, which, with amendments, has since 1935 facilitated the transformation of the agricultural landscape through the creation of dams and dugouts. The need for conserving water on the prairies is a subject about which there can be little serious disagreement, and federal policy is supplemented by related provincial policies.
The conservation of most other natural resources is more controversial. Hunters, for example, may be willing to accept bag limits on waterfowl, to ensure the continuation of hunting; but the maintenance of large flocks may also mean that some farmers have to tolerate substantial destruction of grain each fall. Pesticides and herbicides are necessary for large crops of weed-free grain, and their use is officially encouraged; but the chemicals used sometimes show up in disturbing quantities in foods consumed by humans and livestock.
Even that most traditional of prairie conservation policies, leaving arable fields idle in summerfallow to reduce weeds and conserve moisture, has been shown to be in important ways more wasteful than continual cropping from the soil. The inevitable tensions brought by modern technology have not prevented Saskatchewan from adopting comprehensive programs aimed at preserving its environment. Lookout towers and patrol aircraft in the north, controlled harvesting of wildlife everywhere, game preserves, fish hatcheries and bird sanctuaries are all familiar parts of provincial life.
John H. Archer, Saskatchewan: A History (1980); D.H. Bocking, ed, Pages from the Past: Essays on Saskatchewan History (1970); G. Friesen, Prairie Road (1984); Edward McCourt, Saskatchewan (1968); J. Howard Richards and K.I. Fung, Atlas of Saskatchewan (1969).