As you know, the territories of Canada are located in colder regions. So it is natural that the number of inhabitants is lower than in the provinces. The territories history also is not as eventful as provinces, like Ontario or Quebec. But of course, there are things to look for throughout their history. Who wouldn’t like to read about gold rushes?
In this article, we look into all three territories history, and also we talk about some of their best historical sites. Stick around, and you will soon learn all about them.
Table of Contents
Northwest Territories History
As its name indicates, Northwest Territories is located on the north and west side of Canada. Indigenous people, primarily Inuit, occupied the land for a long time. The first contact with Europeans was probably in 1577 when Martin Frobisher explored some areas and claimed Baffin Island for Britain.
The following individuals to survey and discover the area were North West Company agents in the 18th century. In 1870, Rupert’s Land and North-West Territory were officially added to Canada soil, which was delayed by the Red River Rebellion that happened in Manitoba.
In the next decades, some parts of it were removed to make the land for the provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and for Yukon Territory. But one important point, maybe the most notable one, started in 1897 when gold was found in Klondike. The same happened in Yellowknife in 1934. Both of these discoveries caused gold rushes in the Northwest Territories.
In the table below, you can read about the significant events and their dates, which both affected territories history and Northwest Territories history.
Year Event Before the 16th century Indigenous people occupied the territory. 1577 Martin Frobisher explored some of this territory and claimed Baffin Island for Britain. 1789 Alexander Mackenzie, Scottish explorer and a North West Company agent, traveled through Mackenzie River (Named it after himself, of course), and reached the Arctic Ocean. 1867 The Dominion of Canada was formed. 1870 Rupert’s Land and North-West Territory were officially added to Canada; it was delayed due to the Red River Rebellion. 1880 British Arctic Territories were added to the Dominion of Canada as new parts of North-West Territories. 1897 Start of Klondike gold rush. 1899 By signing Treaty 8, Canada gained 840,000 square kilometers in the North-West Territories. 1870-1912 Large parts of North-West Territories were separated to establish and extend provinces Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and Yukon Territory. 1906 The official name was changed to Northwest Territories without the hyphen. 1918 Northwest Territory was divided into three parts, Keewatin, Mackenzie, and Franklin. 1919-21 Oil was discovered in Mackenzie River Valley, Treaty 11 was signed to ensure the Canadian government could utilize the oil. 1934 Gold had been found in Yellowknife (Capital and only city of Northwest territories), but hadn’t been produced till this year.
You might have noted that in some sentences, “North-West Territories” was used, and in some, Northwest Territories. The reason is that in 1906, the name was changed, and the hyphen between the words “north” and “west” was removed.
Northwest territories historic sites
In the following part, we take a look at a historic site in Northwest Territories, which is the great sight to see if you are interested in territories history.
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, sited in Good Hope Fort, was founded in 1864, some point in middle of territories history, and until 1878 it also served as a residence for missionaries. The interior has extraordinary paintings and decorations. In 1977 it was designated as a national historic site.
Yukon history, as a part of the territories history, is not a long history due to the extreme living conditions made by the climate. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the most important events were trades with the Europeans. In these centuries, agents of fur trading companies explored the area and tried to find settlements there.
In 1898, Yukon was born from the North-West territory grounds, with Dawson acting as the capital. The reason that Dawson became a settlement was the Klondike gold rush.
In 1952, the capital was moved from Dawson to Whitehorse.
In the table below, you can read about the significant events and their dates, which both affected territories history and Yukon Territory history.
|18th century||The indigenous people started trading with Russian traders, expanding their trading network also into Yukon Territory.|
|19th century||European traders and explorers (Agents of Hudson’s Bay Company) started traveling through lands today known as Yukon Territory.|
|1848||Fort Selkirk was established by Robert Campbell, a Hudson’s Bay Company agent.|
|1870||Hudson’s Bay Company gave up its monopoly in the area; Yukon Territory as part of the North-West Territories was added to the Dominion of Canada.|
|1898||Yukon became a separate territory with Dawson as its capital. The Klondike gold rush was the beginning of Dawson as a settlement.|
|1952||Whitehorse became the new capital of Yukon instead of Dawson.|
Yukon’s historic sites
In the following part, we take a look at a historic site in Yukon Territory, which is an incredible sight to see if you are interested in the territories history.
Historic District of Dawson City
When gold was discovered in Klondike it affected the territories history as a whole; about 100,000 people entered the region hoping for great fortunes. Gold prospectors established Dawson City in 1896-97, and by 1898 its population reached 40,000 people. Due to the rules in the City of Dawson, new constructions must follow the visual standards to ensure the 19th appearance of the town.
SS Klondike II
SS Klondike and SS Klondike II were two sternwheelers (A vessel with a paddlewheel), running freight between Whitehorse (Capital of Yukon) and Dawson City. After SS Klondike ran aground, SS Klondike II was built to take its place and served until 1955, when the highway between Dawson City and Whitehorse was constructed.
SS Klondike II was donated to Parks Canada, and until 1966 it was restored; in 1967, it was designated as a national historic site. It is now a tourist attraction.
Nunavut history is the shortest one between territories histories. It was established in 1999, following a referendum in 1992. Before that, Nunavut was a part of the Northwest Territories.
Year Event Before the 16th century Indigenous people lived in the area. 1577 Martin Frobisher explored some of this territory and claimed Baffin Island for Britain. Baffin Island is a part of Nunavut Territory now. 1870 Hudson’s Bay Company gave up their monopoly, and the Dominion of Canada earned the North-West Territories and Rupert’s Land. 1992 A referendum was held, and 85% voted for the autonomy of Nunavut. 1999 Nunavut was officially established.
Nunavut’s historic sites
In the following part, talk about a historic event, and a unique historic site in Nunavut which is a remainder of the courage of people discovering areas throughout territories history.
Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror
Throughout the territories history, there are many efforts to discover the area. In 1845, Sir John Franklin conducted an expedition to find the “Northwest Passage” with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, but they never returned. In 2014 and 2016, respectively, wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were discovered.
As of now, the remains of the vessels are not open for the public to visit, but some articles found from them are.
Conclusion on territories history
And thus, we get to our final words on territories history. They are cold, sometimes shrouded in mystery (and sometimes in gold!), but their history is amusing to read about. It is about the courageous adventurous men that tried to discover the lands and sometimes even lost their lives doing so. It is about gold being discovered amidst the ice lands of the north and many other things.
We hope you enjoyed reading about territories history as much as we enjoyed writing it. If you are interested in other provinces’ history, check out other articles about them, and leave your feedback. We would be glad to know your opinion, anytime.