Saskatchewan (province), province in western Canada. Saskatchewan is one of the Prairie provinces, the others being Manitoba and Alberta. Its name is derived from the Cree Indian word kisiskatchewan, which means “swiftly flowing,” a term first applied to the Saskatchewan River. Crossed by a vast belt of flat prairie land, Saskatchewan, with Alberta, is one of only two Canadian provinces with no saltwater coast. Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan, and Saskatoon is the largest city.
Until 1870, most of Saskatchewan was included in the vast Rupert’s Land domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had a monopoly on the North American fur trade. Before 1880 the area was exploited mainly for animal pelts. Only when the railroads came through the prairies in the 1880s did settlers begin coming to Saskatchewan in any numbers. These early pioneers settled the flatlands of central and southern Saskatchewan in scores of tiny rail-side towns, strung out at 13-km (8-mi) intervals along the railroad routes. The excellent soils of the southern prairies enabled Saskatchewan to become the largest producer of wheat in Canada. Saskatchewan, which became a province in 1905, has also prospered with the discovery of petroleum, natural gas, coal, potash, uranium, and other valuable minerals.
Saskatchewan is a long, narrow swath of territory that stretches 1,225 km (761 mi) from the 49th parallel of north latitude, the United States boundary, to the 60th parallel. In width the province varies from 632 km (393 mi) along the southern boundary to 446 km (277 mi) at the northern margin. It is the only Canadian province whose boundaries are drawn without reference to any natural feature. The area they circumscribe is 651,036 sq km (251,366 sq mi), of which 59,366 sq km (22,921 sq mi) are inland water. Saskatchewan ranks fifth in size among the provinces.
Saskatchewan contains portions of two major natural regions: the Canadian Shield in the north and the Interior Plains in the south.
The Canadian Shield, a rugged, rocky, glacier-scoured region, makes up about 40 percent of the surface area of the province. Its southern edge begins north of the Saskatchewan River at the Manitoba border and can be traced roughly west-northwest across the province, through Lac La Ronge to the Alberta boundary south of Lake Athabasca. The shield is a complex area of old rocks, which are the eroded roots of ancient mountain ranges. In more recent geologic time, great glaciers moved across the shield, modifying its surface. The result is a low rippled surface, dotted with lakes and poorly drained tracts of land. Bare rock is exposed in some places. In other places the bedrock is covered by materials left by the glaciers or by meltwater from the once-great ice masses.
South of the shield is a part of the Interior Plains, which is a great sedimentary basin that lies between the shield and the Rocky Mountains. The plains are underlain by nearly horizontal rock strata. The surface, which slopes gently eastward, has been etched by rivers and modified by glacial ice to the point that it is far from uniform. Traditionally, three subdivisions of the plains, often called prairie levels, have been recognized within Saskatchewan.
To the east is the First Prairie Level, or Manitoba Lowland. A small section of it extends from Manitoba into eastern Saskatchewan, beginning at the margin of the shield and ending at a point south of the Saskatchewan River. In glacial times large portions of this lowland were submerged beneath the waters of prehistoric Lake Agassiz, and a great delta was formed where the Saskatchewan River entered the lake. Vestiges of this ancient delta remain in the level and poorly drained lands on either side of the Saskatchewan River, around Cumberland House. This part of the Manitoba Lowland is commonly called the Saskatchewan Delta.
West of the Manitoba Lowland is the Second Prairie Level. Its boundary with the First Prairie Level is marked by a long, broken cliff, called the Manitoba Escarpment, which faces east and rises above the lowland. It is breached by river lowlands and shows the effects of having been sculptured by the continental ice sheets. The Porcupine Hills and the Pasquia Hills are part of the Manitoba Escarpment. The plains, sweeping westward from this escarpment, strike the base of a second escarpment in central Saskatchewan. It is capped with material left by glaciers and forms a more or less continuous belt of hills, traceable from the U.S. border northwestward to a point not too far south of Lake Athabasca. The distinctive southern part of this escarpment, separating the Second and Third prairie levels, is called the Missouri Coteau. West of the coteau are the High Plains, or the Third Prairie Level. Geologically, this region is a continuation of the Great Plains of the United States.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
More than 12 percent of the surface area of Saskatchewan is covered by rivers and lakes. They are heavily concentrated in the northern half of the province, in the Canadian Shield. Of the thousands of lakes found here, the largest is Lake Athabasca, which is shared with Alberta. Second in size is Reindeer Lake, shared with Manitoba. Other large lakes include Wollaston, Cree, and Frobisher lakes and Lac La Ronge. Immediately south of the shield are a number of other sizable bodies of water, including Peter Pond, and Doré, Montreal, Primrose, and Cumberland lakes.
Most of the rivers of Saskatchewan flow eastward toward Hudson Bay. In the southeast the Qu’Appelle and Souris rivers feed into the Assiniboine-Red River system of Manitoba, which drains through Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River into Hudson Bay. The central plains are crossed by the most important of the province’s rivers, the Saskatchewan, whose northern and southern branches join east of Prince Albert. It also flows into Lake Winnipeg. The Churchill River system in Saskatchewan is actually a series of lakes connected by streams. The Churchill River drains the southern part of the Canadian Shield and adjacent parts of the Interior Plains. In southwestern Saskatchewan, the Frenchman River feeds southward into the Missouri River System. Northern Saskatchewan falls within the extensive Mackenzie River Basin, which drains northward into the Arctic Ocean.
The climate of Saskatchewan is continental, with great seasonal variations in temperature. The interior location of the province and the great barrier zone of mountains to the west combine to seal Saskatchewan off from the moderating influences of both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Winters are cold. January temperature averages are low, even in the south. Regina, for example, has an average temperature range in January from a high of -11°C (12°F) to a low of -22°C (-8°F); the lowest temperature on record there is -50°C (-58°F). The lowest temperature averages are found in the northeast, where the January mean is about -28°C (-18°F) and winter readings sometimes sink to -57°C (-70°F). Summers are generally hot in southern Saskatchewan, and warm weather is experienced all the way to the 60th parallel. The average range in July in Regina is from a high of 26°C (79°F) to a low of 12°C (53°F). A maximum of 43°C (110°F) has been recorded at Regina, and highs of more than 32°C (90°F) have been registered at Lake Athabasca.
Precipitation is relatively light, ranging from little more than 430 mm (17 in) per year near the Manitoba border to about 300 mm (about 12 in) in the southwest. Precipitation also diminishes northward, with less than 280 mm (11 in) normally recorded along the 60th parallel. More rain falls in summer, but it is concentrated during the harvest period of late summer. Winter snows are not heavy, but they appear to be because snow remains on the ground for long periods and drifting becomes a problem.
The length of the frost-free season varies within the province. In the southwest, particularly in the valley lands along the South Saskatchewan River, the frost-free period ranges from 150 to 160 days. Regina enjoys about 123 frost-free days, and Saskatoon has about 111. The far north has only from 85 to 95 frost-free days.
One important characteristic of Saskatchewan’s climate is the great variability in temperature and precipitation from year to year, which is often critical for agriculture. The growing season is normally short, and any abbreviation of it may mean crop failure. Snows have been known to fall on ripening grain. Since rainfall is modest, drier-than-normal years may cause drought. In wet years there may be floods or fields may become waterlogged.
The soils of Saskatchewan vary greatly in character and productivity. The two primary categories are grassland soils and forest soils.
The soils associated with the grasslands tend to be of medium to high fertility. Deep black chernozem soils of high fertility are found in the areas of the tall-grass and midgrass prairies. In the drier short-grass areas, the soils are lighter-colored, brown prairie soils. They are also fertile, but lack of precipitation limits their usefulness. Forest soils are generally low in fertility. The podzol soils, soils that are formed by moist climates and are associated with the coniferous forest, are deficient in nutrients. The mixed forest is usually underlain by gray, wooded soil, also of limited fertility.
The parklands provide a transition in soils as well as in vegetation. Patches of gray, wooded soils are interspersed with tracts of chernozem. Many areas have what is called degraded chernozem, a soil of grassland origin that has been modified to some degree by the invasion of trees into the region. Despite their name, the degraded chernozems are usually quite productive. The vast swamplands between the Saskatchewan River and the Pasquia Hills, in eastern Saskatchewan, have potentially productive soils that require extensive draining before they can be used.
Although Saskatchewan is one of the Prairie provinces, only a little more than one-fourth of its area was true prairie in its natural state. Tall-grass prairies were found southwest of an irregular boundary that could be drawn across the province approximately through Regina and Saskatoon. Farther southwest, because of decreasing precipitation, the tall grasses gave way to shorter ones, and beyond Swift Current true short-grass prairie prevailed. The original grasslands of Saskatchewan were either completely destroyed in the process of human settlement of the land or have been considerably altered through many years of livestock grazing.
North of the prairies was a zone of transition between the grasslands and the forests, called the parklands or aspen grove belt. This zone varied from about 90 to 160 km (60 to 100 mi) in width. Within it, patches of trees, or bluffs, occurred in a mixture with tracts of tall grasses. The parklands have been an important area of settlement, and settlers have removed most of its original vegetative cover. Aspen groves still cover some lands that have not proved agriculturally productive.
The remainder of the province was, and largely remains, forested land, known as the boreal forest. Here are found coniferous trees, notably spruce and pine, and deciduous trees such as aspen, poplar, and birch. In poorly drained areas are extensive tracts of muskeg, swampy land in which sphagnum moss and other water-tolerant plants grow. The southern boundary of the boreal forest is an irregular line connecting Kamsack, Prince Albert, and the Alberta border. South of that line is a zone of mixed forest in which aspen and birch are abundant but conifers are also present. In the northeast is a subarctic zone, which forms a transition between the boreal forest and the tundra.
Animals that have survived from the days of the open range are the antelope, now protected, and the badger, now rare. The coyote still inhabits the open prairie, and the timber wolf roams the region farther north. The most common of the wild mammals on the prairie are the ground squirrel, or gopher, and the jackrabbit. In the northern timberland there is a variety of animals, including the muskrat, mink, weasel, beaver, black bear, and skunk. In the forest region there are moose, elk, and deer. Farther north, the caribou is common.
The lakes, sloughs, and swamps of Saskatchewan attract a vast number of water birds and waders. Birds include the Hungarian partridge, sharp-tailed grouse or prairie chicken, and pheasant on the prairie; the ruffed grouse in wooded country; the ptarmigan in the far north; and the Canada goose and a wide variety of ducks throughout the province. In addition there are the western and horned grebe, common loon, great blue heron, sandhill crane, and several species of hawk.
Fish include the common whitefish, tullibee, pickerel, yellow perch, black bass, and lake trout. The grayling is found in the far north.
With few large population centers and limited manufacturing, Saskatchewan has few of the environmental problems typically associated with industrialization and urbanization. The main ones are largely related to the province’s extensive agriculture, which has transformed the landscapes of southern Saskatchewan and led to the disappearance of much of the native prairie habitat. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from cultivated fields has contaminated surface and groundwater in some areas and has also affected wildlife. At the same time, intensive livestock operations (ILOs, large-scale livestock farms) produce vast amounts of animal waste. Without proper treatment, this waste can degrade water, soil, and air quality, and pose serious risks to public health. Other issues of concern include the harmful environmental impacts of mining, oil and gas development, and industrial forestry—activities that occur within a variety of biologically diverse habitats throughout the province.
The federal government enforces federal regulations dealing with certain kinds of air and water pollution. The provincial ministry of the environment is responsible for most provincial environmental programs. Its activities include the enforcement of regulations for the collection, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste, and the operation of provincial parks, renewable resource management, and wildlife management programs. In 2002 the provincial government established the Long-Term Safe Drinking Water Strategy (LTSDS), a water-management initiative, following an incident in the town of North Battleford in which thousands were sickened by contaminants in the public water supply. The initiative set in motion new processes to reduce known risks to water quality and improve watershed management to better protect human health and the environment.
The economy of Saskatchewan has always depended on primary products. The first one was fur, for which the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company competed from 1774 to 1821. The development of agriculture in the province began with the coming of the railroads in the late 19th century. Agriculture, mainly wheat farming, rapidly expanded from about 1880 to 1930. The depression and drought of the 1930s brought the province’s economy to a virtual standstill. However, an improvement in the yield and prices of grain during World War II (1939-1945) initiated an economic recovery in the province.
In the 1950s economic growth was spurred by oil, natural gas, uranium, and potash mining. By the 1960s a vigorous mining industry and expanding levels of agriculture production helped bring economic stability to the province. The service sector, which includes such activities as banking and finance, insurance, and real estate, also expanded rapidly in the postwar period, and today contributes more than 50 percent of Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product (GDP, a measure of the value of all goods and services produced annually). In 2006 Saskatchewan’s GDP was C(Canadian)$45.9 million.
A notable feature of Saskatchewan’s economy is the prevalence of cooperatives across multiple economic sectors. Cooperative associations, which are owned by members and managed for their benefit, were organized by prairie wheat farmers in the early 1900s to help market and distribute their crops. Since that time, cooperatives have become an important feature of economic life in the province. Among the largest is the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, which operates hundreds of grain elevators, numerous export terminals and terminal elevators, livestock yards, and many other facilities. Cooperative associations are also active in retailing and wholesaling, housing, and in many service industries.
Although agriculture accounts for less than half of total production, it remains Saskatchewan’s largest single industry. The raising of field crops is the leading type of farming in Saskatchewan, and wheat is the most important field crop. In fact, Saskatchewan is by far the largest producer of wheat in Canada.
In 2006 there were 44,329 farms in Saskatchewan. Farmland and ranchland occupied 260,026 sq km (100,397 sq mi), of which 58 percent was cropland. More than one-third of the farms and ranches raised wheat. In 2002 the total farm cash receipts totaled 6.2 billion Canadian dollars. Three-quarters of that income came from sales of crops.
Saskatchewan normally devotes about one-half of its cropland to wheat. Most of the wheat is grown on the prairies and adjacent parklands. Canola, a source of vegetable oil, is Saskatchewan’s second most valuable crop. Oilseed crops have expanded in importance since the early 1990s, and today canola is nearly as important as wheat. Flax, another valuable oilseed, is also grown. Other important grains include barley, oats, and rye. A variety of forage and feed crops, including hay, are grown to support livestock.
Livestock farming is an important part of Saskatchewan’s agricultural sector and, given the year-to-year variability in crop production, a valuable stabilizing influence. Livestock production accounts for about one-fifth of all agricultural sales. Traditionally, beef cattle accounted for the majority of livestock raised, but hogs have increased in importance due to growing domestic and international demand for pork. Cattle were first brought into southwestern Saskatchewan from the Great Plains of the United States in the 1880s. Since that time, livestock raising has occurred alongside grain farming in all agricultural areas of the province.
Saskatchewan’s wheat farmers depend on selling their vast output of grain on the world market. Huge amounts of wheat are exported to countries such as the United States, Mexico, South Korea, Iran, Brazil, Japan, and China. Most of the province’s grain is shipped through Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the Great Lakes. Some wheat is also sent by rail to the port of Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay.
Irrigation projects in Saskatchewan were first put in place after the severe drought of the 1930s to help rehabilitate drought-stricken drylands in the southwest. Today, this system consists of 26 storage reservoirs that feed multiple irrigation projects across the southwest. Irrigation water is used largely for the production of hay and fodder crops. The water also provides recreational benefits and wildlife habitat, and is a source of local and urban water supplies.
Commercial fishing is carried out on a small scale in Saskatchewan’s lakes and rivers. The main fish caught are walleye, whitefish, pike, and lake trout. The commercial freshwater fisheries are small but locally important. Sport fishing draws many tourists to the province, most from the United States.
By value, the principal species of the fur trade in Saskatchewan are beaver, coyote, muskrat, and marten. Saskatchewan ranks fourth among provinces and territories in the value of pelts produced annually.
Saskatchewan has 243,000 sq km (93,800 sq mi) of forestland; of this 126,300 sq km (48,800 sq mi) is suitable for regular harvest. Of the province’s lumber shipments, almost all is softwood; the principal species are spruce and jack pine. Forestry remains a relatively small industry in Saskatchewan. However, wood processing is locally important at Hudson Bay, Glaslyn, Big River, and Meadow Lake.
Since the 1950s, mining has been of increasing importance to Saskatchewan’s economy. By the 1980s, mining was second only to agriculture as a percentage of overall production. Today, Saskatchewan ranks third among the provinces in nonrenewable resource production in Canada. Nonrenewable resources include all minerals, oil, and natural gas. Uranium and other metallic minerals are produced from the Canadian Shield in northern Saskatchewan. Potash, coal, and other industrial minerals are mined in southern Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan is the largest uranium-producing region in the world and is Canada’s most important source of the mineral. Interest in Saskatchewan’s uranium deposits greatly increased after atomic weapons were used during World War II (1939-1945), and in 1952 Uranium City was established to mine a major deposit in the Beaverlodge area. That deposit was exhausted in the 1980s, but new mines were established at three other locations: Rabbit Lake, Key Lake, and Cluff Lake. Uranium produced from these mines is sold to nuclear power plants in North America, Europe, and East Asia. Gold is also mined in Saskatchewan.
Potash is used primarily in fertilizers, and about 25 percent of the world production comes from Saskatchewan. Potash is the largest mining sector in the province and is produced from numerous mines spread across southern Saskatchewan. It is sold within Canada and to the United States, Japan, China, India, Brazil, and countries in Southeast Asia. Other minerals produced in Saskatchewan include salt, sodium sulfate, calcium chloride, and clays.
Saskatchewan is the second largest oil-producing province in Canada. Heavy and light crude oil are produced from the Lloydminster, Kindersley-Kerrobert, Swift Current, and Weyburn-Estevan areas. Crude oil is sold within the province and to buyers in Alberta, eastern Canada, and the United States. The province is also an important natural gas producing area in Canada. The main reserves are located along the western boundary of Saskatchewan, in the Beacon Hill, Kindersley, and Hatton areas. Natural gas is sold within the province and to buyers in eastern Canada and the United States.
Industry has developed slowly in Saskatchewan, in part due to the small internal market, and it remains much less important than farming or mining. In 1997 the province’s manufacturing concerns generated 6 percent of GDP. Food processing has long been the main industry. Especially important are slaughtering and meatpacking and the production of beer, soft drinks, and animal feed. Other major products include newspapers and magazines, agricultural implements, agricultural chemicals, commercial printed materials, ready-mix concrete, and machine shop products. Regina and Saskatoon are the principal manufacturing centers.
The government-owned Saskatchewan Power Corporation generates the electricity used in the province and has a monopoly over the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity. A few large industrial consumers generate electricity for their own use. In 2002, 68 percent of the province’s electricity was produced by coal-fired plants, 16 percent by hydroelectric power plants, and 16 percent by natural gas plants.
During the fur-trade era, transportation was almost exclusively by water. Steamboat traffic on the Saskatchewan River was important during the late 19th century until railroad construction began. Today, Saskatchewan has an efficient system of transportation based on extensive east-west road and railroad routes and supplemented by many north-south spurs. Saskatchewan has about 3,700 km (about 2,300 mi) of operated mainline railroad track, run by the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways. There are about 250,000 km (about 155,000 mi) of public highways and urban and rural roads. A 653-km (406-mi) portion of the Trans-Canada Highway spans southern Saskatchewan from the Alberta border near Maple Creek in the west through Regina to the Manitoba border just east of Moosomin. Regina and Saskatoon are served by Air Canada’s transcontinental flights. Small private airlines link the major cities and operate to remote communities of the north.
Aside from the larger cities, Saskatchewan’s urban communities—with their grain elevators, general stores, and service stations—are predominantly shipping and trading centers for the farm population. In addition to grain, Saskatchewan exports large quantities of a few important commodities, often unprocessed, to other provinces and countries. In turn, Saskatchewan imports most consumer and industrial goods used in the province. Saskatchewan’s economy is thus highly dependent on trade and is vulnerable to fluctuations in world commodity prices.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF SASKATCHEWAN|
Among the provinces, Saskatchewan ranks sixth in population, with a population of 978,933 at the 2001 national census. This figure represented a decrease of 1 percent from the 1991 figure of 988,928. The province has an average density of 1.7 persons per sq km (4.3 per sq mi). Population density is greatest in the parklands and along the margin of the prairies. The population of Saskatchewan is of mixed ethnic origin. More than 40 percent of inhabitants trace their ancestry to the British Isles. The next largest ethnic groups claim German, French, Ukrainian, American Indian, Métis (people of mixed indigenous and European ancestry), and Scandinavian ancestry.
Indigenous peoples, mainly Cree, Assiniboine, and Chipewyan account for a significant share of Saskatchewan’s population. At the time of the 2006 census, they constituted 14.9 percent of the population. Indigenous peoples live mainly in the north and on more than 100 reserves throughout the province.
By 1931 the population of Saskatchewan had reached 921,785. A severe drought and the deep economic depression in the 1930s prompted many people to leave the province to look for work elsewhere. Within the province many people moved from the prairie dust bowl northward into the southern margins of the forested regions. Subsequently these poorer woodlands were also abandoned, and there was further migration from the province. The population grew slowly in the 1950s, and it stagnated in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1976 the population was almost exactly the same as it had been in 1931. The censuses of 1981 and 1986 showed population increases. However, the population declined at the end of the 1980s and was less than 1 million by 1991.
There has been a marked shift of people from farms to towns and cities. Some 64 percent lived in cities of more than 5,000 inhabitants in 2001, up from 43 percent in 1961.
Saskatoon and Regina, the largest cities, are the leading trade centers. Saskatoon had 202,340 inhabitants in 2006, and Regina, the capital, 179,246. Prince Albert, with 34,138 inhabitants, is the northernmost city of any significant size. Very few people permanently reside in northern Saskatchewan, where mining is a major industry. Moose Jaw, a railroad center, had 32,132 people.
The leading religious denominations in Saskatchewan are the United Church of Canada and the Roman Catholic Church. The Lutheran, Anglican, Mennonite, and Eastern Orthodox churches also have large memberships.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL LIFE|
Public schools in Saskatchewan are nondenominational and are administered by autonomous boards of education. The ministry of education provides about half the cost of education through operating and capital grants to these boards. Local property taxes are the other main source of revenue for the boards. Citizens, however, may elect to pay their taxes to support separate elementary and secondary schools that have religious affiliations, although most parents send their children to public schools. The ministry of education provides academic standards and curriculum for all schools, including those with religious affiliations. The federal government funds schools on First Nations reserves throughout the province. These aboriginal schools are administered by local tribes.
There are two major public universities in the province: the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and the University of Regina. The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST), the premier vocational institution in the province, has four campuses and offers courses in business, agriculture, health and science, technology, and many other fields. There are also nine community colleges, with campuses throughout Saskatchewan, and numerous Bible colleges.
The provincial and federal governments also support instructional institutions that specialize in the education of indigenous peoples. The First Nations University of Canada (called the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College until 2003) is the only fully accredited aboriginal university of Canada. The Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research, a part of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, supports aboriginal studies and cultural renewal.
|B||Museums and Libraries|
Wildlife, First Nations, and earth science exhibits are housed in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Regina Depot, one of the training colleges of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has a museum containing uniforms, weapons, and other historical information about the force. Materials of the homestead era are on display at the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum (WDM), which has branches in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, and North Battleford. The Battleford, Batoche, and Fort Walsh national historic parks each have museum collections. The major art museums include the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina (originally a part of the University of Regina), the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, The Little Gallery in Prince Albert, and the Estevan Art Gallery in Estevan.
Saskatchewan’s public library system consists of two municipal libraries, in Regina and Saskatoon, and seven regional libraries. These libraries receive grants administered by the Provincial Library in Regina, which also provides a central reference library and traveling libraries. The University of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) each maintain libraries. Among the specialized libraries are those at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre in Saskatoon, and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Library in Regina.
Soon after the first settlers reached Saskatchewan, many frontier newspapers appeared, the first in Battleford in 1878. Among the early journalists was Nicholas Davin, editor of Regina’s first newspaper and author of several books written in the late 1880s. In 2002 there were 3 daily newspapers and many weeklies. There were also 19 AM radio stations, 12 FM radio stations, and 10 television stations. Radio is especially important as a means of communication in northern areas.
The Saskatchewan Arts Board, an agency established by the provincial government in 1948, funds a wide variety of cultural activities throughout Saskatchewan, including the visual arts, music, drama, literature, and handicrafts. Both Regina and Saskatoon have symphony orchestras. Professional theater companies include the Globe Theatre, in Regina, the 25th Street Theatre Centre in Saskatoon, and the Persephone Theatre, also in Saskatoon.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES TO VISIT|
Water sports and fishing and hunting are among the most popular recreational activities in Saskatchewan. A chain of lakes on the Qu’Appelle River and Madge, Kenosee, and Carlyle lakes draw many visitors in the south. The northern wilderness attracts increasing numbers of visitors to Lac La Ronge, Île-à-la-Crosse, and a vast network of lesser-known lakes. Visitors can fish for pike, pickerel, whitefish, lake trout, and perch. An abundance of wildlife, particularly in the forested regions, provides hunting in season for deer, antelope, moose, and elk. Also hunted are geese and ducks in the swamps and lakes, game birds in the prairies, and caribou in the north. During the long, cold winters the frozen lakes are used for ice hockey and curling, Saskatchewan’s most popular sports.
Saskatchewan has two national parks. Prince Albert National Park, north of the city of Prince Albert, covers 3,874 sq km (1,496 sq mi) of lakes and forests. The undeveloped Grasslands National Park is located in the southwestern prairies near the U.S.-Canadian border.
Most of Saskatchewan’s 34 provincial parks are in wooded uplands, such as Moose Mountain, Duck Mountain, and the Cypress Hills, or around lakes, such as the parks around Greenwater Lake and Lac La Ronge. Katepwa, Crooked Lake, and Echo Valley provincial parks, east of Regina, and Buffalo Pond, west of Regina, are all in the beautiful Qu’Appelle River valley. Facilities for winter sports are provided at Cypress Hills, Greenwater Lake, and Moose Mountain. In addition to the provincial parks, the province maintains more than 130 recreational sites.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
National historic parks or sites have been established at Fort Battleford and Fort Walsh, posts of the old North-West Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and at Batoche, the site associated with the Northwest Rebellion in 1885. Dozens of historic sites have been marked by national, provincial, and local agencies.
Saskatoon hosts numerous annual events that are staged throughout the year. In summertime, agricultural fairs and exhibitions are held in many cities and towns, the largest being the exhibitions in Saskatoon in July and in Regina in June. Other events include the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival in Battleford, held in July, and the Folkfest in Regina, held in August. The Canadian Western Agribition, a livestock show, is held at Regina in November, and the Prince Albert Winter Festival occurs in February.
Saskatchewan is represented in the Canadian Parliament by 14 elected representatives in the House of Commons and by six senators who are appointed by the federal government.
The crown is represented by the lieutenant governor, who is appointed by the federal government. Real power is vested in the premier and cabinet. The premier is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the legislature. The premier and cabinet must resign if they lose the confidence of a majority in the legislature.
Saskatchewan’s legislature is a unicameral (single-chamber) body known as the Legislative Assembly. It is composed of 58 elected members. A general election must be held at least every five years; an election can be held sooner if the legislature is dissolved before its term is completed.
Saskatchewan has two higher courts, the justices of which are appointed by the federal government. The Court of Appeal, with a chief justice and eight justices, hears criminal and civil appeals from the lower courts. The Court of Queen’s Bench, with a chief justice and 32 other full-time justices, is a trial court for criminal and civil cases. Its justices also deal with bankruptcies and estates. There is also a system of provincial courts, with judges appointed by the provincial government. The provincial courts hear criminal and civil cases, as well as family and juvenile cases.
Indigenous peoples had lived in Saskatchewan for thousands of years when European explorers and fur trappers first arrived in the late 17th century. The province’s aboriginal inhabitants at the time of contact with Europeans can be divided into three distinct language families, located roughly within three major geographical regions of Saskatchewan. The Canadian Shield region in northern Saskatchewan was the home of ethnic groups that spoke languages of the Athapaskan linguistic family: the Chipewyan, the Beaver, and the Slavey. Groups of the Algonquian linguistic family, the forest and Plains Cree and the Blackfoot, were located in the Interior Plains, in the central region drained by the Saskatchewan River. The Assiniboine and Gros Ventres of the Siouan family lived on the extreme southern plains. Several bands of Sioux, also of the Siouan family, migrated to Saskatchewan from the United States in the early 1870s.
The presence of great numbers of fur-bearing animals first attracted Europeans to the plains and rugged northland of the interior of North America. The Hudson’s Bay Company had, by its charter of 1670, secured rights to all lands drained by rivers flowing into Hudson Bay. In the beginning the company relied on indigenous peoples to bring the furs out to the posts on the shores of the great bay. In 1690 Henry Kelsey of the Hudson’s Bay Company traveled into the interior to encourage this trade, becoming the first European to enter the Saskatchewan territory. By the mid-18th century, however, French traders based at Montréal had penetrated the interior by the Great Lakes route, and the resulting competition forced the Hudson’s Bay Company to extend its operations inland. In 1754, in direct response to the French challenge, Anthony Henday traveled into the plains area, and in 1774 Samuel Hearne built a Hudson’s Bay Company post at Cumberland House, which was the first permanent European settlement in the area of present-day Saskatchewan.
The fur traders quickly adapted, and by the early 19th century they had explored the western domain. A vast network of lakes and rivers gave them access to the fur territory of the north. The Saskatchewan River system carried them through the central region to the foothills of the mountains, and the Qu’Appelle and Assiniboine rivers took them to the southern plains. By the 1850s, however, the fur trade was in decline, and the agricultural possibilities of the plains were being seriously examined. The British government sent Captain John Palliser to the west for this purpose in 1857, and another expedition under J. S. Dawson and H. Y. Hind was sent by the Canadian government the following year. In 1870 the Dominion of Canada acquired the vast region of Rupert’s Land and The North-Western Territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company. This area, which included present-day Saskatchewan, was renamed the Northwest Territories.
By the last quarter of the 19th century the era of the fur trade had ended, and the period of western settlement began. After 1878 the Canadian government fostered settlement in the west, in part because of the danger that advancing westward settlement in the United States would sweep north into the unoccupied Canadian prairies. To prevent the Americans from driving a wedge between British possessions east and west of the central plains, it was decided to unite the eastern provinces with British Columbia by means of a transcontinental railroad. The railroad was also intended as a means of transporting settlers into the west and later of shipping farm products eastward. Construction began in 1872, but the Canadian Pacific Railway was not completed until 1885.
Settlers also came to the Northwest Territories, encouraged by government policies that gave free land to people who were willing to settle it and by incentives offered to companies who would move to the territories. These companies were responsible for bringing in groups of English, German, Swedish, and Hungarian settlers.
|D||Resistance by the Métis|
In 1874 and 1876 most of the aboriginal peoples of the Northwest Territories sold their lands to the Canadian government and accepted life on reserves set aside for them. However, the Métis were displeased by the encroachment of settlers. They also objected to the slaughter of the bison (commonly called buffalo), which resulted in the virtual annihilation of the herds by 1878. Following a serious crop failure in 1883, the Métis of Saskatchewan united under the leadership of Louis Riel and began to seek self-government. Negotiation toward settling the Métis’ demands proved futile, and some of the Métis rose in armed resistance in 1885. The resistance, called the Northwest Rebellion, was quickly suppressed, and the Canadian government made no serious efforts to solve the problems of the dissatisfied Métis.
Thereafter, settlement was a slow but steady process. By 1891 the population of the Northwest Territories, excluding indigenous peoples and Métis, was 51,000. The population increased more rapidly in the last years of the century as settlers from eastern Canada, Europe, and the United States flooded into “the last best West.” By 1901 the territorial population was 158,940, and in 1905 it exceeded 400,000.
The foundations for self-government in the Northwest Territories were developed during the latter decades of the 19th century. A provision was made in 1883 for the creation of municipal governments in the more heavily populated areas. The territories were represented in the Canadian House of Commons for the first time in 1887 and in the Senate in 1888, the same year that the northwest council became a fully elective legislative assembly. In 1905 Saskatchewan was granted provincial status. In the first provincial election, Saskatchewan chose a Liberal government.
Saskatchewan assumed its place as a province of the Dominion of Canada in a period of prosperity. Continued immigration increased the population to 750,000 people by 1914. Wheat acreage expanded by more than five times, railway mileage rose four times, and the number of cities in the province increased from three to seven. The most significant developments in the province concerned agriculture. Early in the century, Sir Charles E. Saunders had developed Marquis wheat, an early-maturing, hard-spring variety that, because of its excellent milling qualities, became known as the wheat that made Saskatchewan famous. The province’s agriculture was further aided by the introduction of the gasoline tractor and by the establishment of a college of agriculture at Saskatoon.
|F||Growth of Cooperative Farming|
The farmers of Saskatchewan soon saw the advantages of organizing and forming cooperatives, businesses owned by the farmers, allowing them to retain control over their products. The first major farmers’ organization was the Territorial Grain Grower’s Association, founded by William Motherwell in 1901. In 1911 the farmer-owned Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator Company was formed to combat the unfair practices of privately owned grain elevators.
A recession in 1913, followed by World War I (1914-1918), poor crops, and a serious blight of wheat rust, slowed the process of cooperative development. These conditions were further aggravated in the early 1920s by the nation’s painful readjustment to a peacetime economy. Saskatchewan farmers organized under the national Progressive Party, and in 1921 the party won 15 of the province’s 16 seats in the federal House of Commons. The Progressives held the balance of power in the House of Commons from 1921 to 1926. Their strength waned thereafter, and farmers turned again to economic cooperation.
In 1924 Saskatchewan farmers were still convinced that the system of wheat marketing left the farmer at the mercy of the grain elevators, the large milling concerns, and the speculators. They organized a marketing cooperative, the Saskatchewan Cooperative Wheat Producers Limited, popularly known as the Wheat Pool. Marketing organizations for other farm products were formed on the cooperative principle, and local consumer cooperatives were consolidated and expanded. The combine, a machine for harvesting grain, became a familiar sight by the late 1920s, and research was undertaken to produce better varieties of early-maturing, rust-resistant wheat. By the end of the decade, prosperity had returned. After 1930 farmers turned increasingly to cooperative purchasing associations as a means of improving their economic position as consumers of general merchandise, fuel and gasoline, and farm machinery.
The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s coincided in Saskatchewan with a prolonged drought, and the price of agricultural products declined dramatically. In 1937, the worst of the drought years, the wheat yield fell from a long-term average of 6 bushels per hectare (15 bushels per acre) to a meager 1.08 bushels per hectare (2.7 bushels per acre). Grasshoppers, wheat rust, drifting topsoil, and weeds wrought further havoc, forcing two-thirds of the rural population to seek government relief. Many families trekked north to pioneer once again on the fringe of the parklands. Immigration practically ceased, and the population declined by almost 26,000 between 1931 and 1941.
In response to this crisis, the provincial government undertook relief and youth-training programs. New cultivation methods were developed, reclamation and irrigation projects were instituted, and cooperative enterprises were further extended. This period also saw the rise of a new, socialist political party, called the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which drew its leadership largely from the farmers’ movement and from organized labor. The CCF pledged to replace the capitalist system with a planned economy. Conservation and reclamation projects improved conditions somewhat. In 1939, however, before the province had fully recovered from the ravages of the “dirty 30s,” World War II had begun.
|H||Social Democratic Reforms|
The impatience for social and economic reforms bred by long years of depression, drought, and war was reflected in the provincial election of 1944. The CCF, under the leadership of T. C. Douglas, soundly defeated the Liberals. The CCF would govern Saskatchewan for the next 20 years. Postwar prosperity allowed the new government to introduce new social services and to increase expenditures and improve administration in the fields of public health, education, and social welfare. Compulsory government-run automobile insurance was introduced, and the era of public ownership was expanded to include bus and air transport, insurance, and the manufacture of wool, leather, and clay products. The wool and leather plants later proved inefficient and were discontinued. At the same time, the exploitation of natural resources in the province was strictly controlled.
The CCF continued the policies of previous administrations by encouraging the cooperative movement and supporting the traditional economic interests of the grain growers. By 1960 the government had instituted new measures to extend sewage and water services to rural and smaller urban communities and to provide farmers with affordable crop insurance. In 1962 a compulsory prepaid health-care program was inaugurated.
|I||Late 20th Century|
A Liberal government, elected in 1964, moved quickly to reduce taxes, encourage mineral exploitation and industrial development, and increase expenditures on roads and education. It also opened publicly owned enterprises to increased competition from the private sector. In 1971 the Liberals were ousted by the New Democratic Party (NDP), the successor to the CCF. Over the next 11 years the NDP carried out an extensive program of reform. Social welfare benefits were expanded, and the government took over the valuable potash-mining industry.
However, inflation undermined the popularity of the NDP’s program, and in 1982, for the first time in the history of Saskatchewan, the Progressive Conservative Party won the provincial elections. They were reelected in 1986, winning most of the rural vote while the NDP captured most of the urban vote. The Progressive Conservatives lost the support of many rural voters after pushing through the generally unpopular U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1989. As a result, the NDP was returned to power in 1991. The NDP won reelection in 1995 and 1999.
At the start of the 1990s, Saskatchewan enjoyed a reasonably prosperous economy as a result of a boom in the natural gas industry and robust wheat harvests. Continuing a trend of the late 1980s, however, the population declined as many working-age people left the province. The population drain, which continued into the 2000s, was attributed to such factors as a steady decrease in agricultural employment and the general decline in rural population.
In 1996 the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool became a public company and began trading shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Pool members retained a large proportion of shares, and the company became one of the largest publicly traded agribusiness cooperatives in Canada. At the same time, Saskatchewan’s farmers were hard hit by plummeting wheat prices and farm income. While declining farm income in the late 1990s was partly a result of crop failure due to unfavorable weather, many farmers blamed high wheat subsidies in the European Union (EU) and the United States, also major wheat producers. Meanwhile, the Canadian government cut annual wheat subsidies dramatically, causing hardship for many Saskatchewan farmers.
Rural discontent and the belief that the NDP, with its strong urban electoral base, was insufficiently concerned with farming issues, led many farmers to support the fledgling Saskatchewan Party during the 1999 provincial elections. A few years earlier, in the mid-1990s, the Progressive Conservatives had become embroiled in a corruption scandal, and the party voted to abstain from the province’s next two general elections. As a result, the Saskatchewan Party became the province’s primary conservative party. When the NDP won reelection in 1999, it failed to win the expected majority in the legislature. To build a working majority, the NDP formed a coalition government with the Liberal Party—the first coalition government in Saskatchewan in 70 years. In the 2003 provincial elections the NDP narrowly defeated the Saskatchewan Party to retain power.