Districts of the Northwest Territories

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The vastness of Canada's Northwest Territories (spelled 'North-West Territories' from 1870 to 1905) meant that for much of its history it was divided into several districts for ease of administration. The number and size of these territorial districts varied as other provinces and territories of Canada were created and expanded. The districts of the Northwest Territories were abolished in 1999 with the creation of Nunavut territory and the contraction of the Northwest Territories to its current size.

North-West Territories pre-'districts'[edit]

The North-West Territories were administered as a single entity, with no districts, from 1870 to 1882.

In 1870 Canada gained control of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory from the Hudson's Bay Company. That same year, a small piece of Rupert's Land was formed into the province of Manitoba, but the rest of the area was merged and renamed the North-West Territories. This region included the vast bulk of Canada's present day landmass and covered an area about the size of western Europe.

In 1876 the North-West Territories contracted in size when a large area of 590,932 km2 (228,160 sq mi), between Manitoba and Ontario and along the entire west coast of Hudson Bay, was established by Canada as a territory named the District of Keewatin. This autonomous territory is not to be confused with the 'districts' which would later be created within the North-West Territories.

In 1880 the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was ceded to Canada by the United Kingdom and this land was added to the North-West Territories.

Time line[edit]

Districts of the Northwest Territories
District Created Abolished Present Location Territory covered Notes
Alberta 1882 1905 AB - The south-central and southwestern portion of the modern-day Province of Alberta
Assiniboia 1882 1905 SK, AB - The southern quarter of the modern-day Province of Saskatchewan, and the extreme southeastern portion of the modern-day Province of Alberta
Athabasca 1882 1905 AB, SK - Originally the northern portion of the modern-day Province of Alberta.
- Expanded in 1895 to include the northern portion of the modern-day Province of Saskatchewan.
Franklin 1895 1999 NT, NU - All Canadian Arctic Ocean islands, plus the mainland Melville Peninsula and Boothia Peninsula (both in modern-day Nunavut).
- Expanded in 1920 to include islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay and Ungava Bay.
District effectively ceased to function many years prior to 1999, with the creation of NWT "administrative regions"
Keewatin 1905 1999 NU, ON, MB - Initially included the extreme far north portions of modern-day Ontario and Manitoba, as well as almost all of the mainland portions of modern-day Nunavut.
- All land south of the 60th parallel ceded to Ontario and Manitoba in 1912.

- Not to be confused with the District of Keewatin (1876-1905), an autonomous independent entity that was not part of NWT.

District effectively ceased to function many years prior to 1999, with the creation of NWT "administrative regions"
Mackenzie 1895 1999 NT, NU, YT - Includes all of the mainland portion of the present-day Northwest Territories, and the extreme northwestern mainland portion (the 'mainland panhandle') of present-day Nunavut.
- Initially included some land which is now in the far eastern and northeastern portion of Yukon; ceded this land to Yukon Territory in 1901 as part of a boundary adjustment.
District effectively ceased to function many years prior to 1999, with the creation of NWT "administrative regions"
Saskatchewan 1882 1905 SK, AB, MB - The central and north-central portion of the modern-day Province of Saskatchewan, as well as a northeastern portion of the modern-day Province of Alberta, and a northwestern portion of the modern-day Province of Manitoba
Ungava 1895 1920 QC, NF, NU - initially included modern-day northern Quebec; the interior of modern-day Labrador; and islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay and Ungava Bay that are now part of Nunavut.
- The southernmost part of the district was ceded to Quebec in 1898.
- All remaining continental land was ceded to Quebec in 1912.
- Remaining (uninhabited) offshore islands transferred to District of Franklin in 1920.
District effectively ceased to function in 1912, once all continental land had been ceded to Quebec.
Yukon 1895 1898 YT Almost exactly contiguous with modern-day Yukon; some land in present-day Yukon on the eastern border was transferred from the District of Mackenzie in 1901. Converted into the autonomous Yukon Territory in 1898 due to the advent of the Klondike Gold Rush

1882[edit]

1882 districts are superimposed over the 1881 map

As the southern part of the North-West Territories became populated, four districts were created in 1882 for ease of administration; unlike Keewatin, these areas remained a part of the North-West Territories, and thus were formally called provisional districts:[1][2]

1895[edit]

Canada-1895.png

In 1895 the northern portion of the North-West Territories was divided into four more internal districts for ease of administration.:[3][4]

  • The District of Franklin was made up of the Arctic islands.
  • The District of Ungava was made up of what is today northern Quebec, parts of Labrador, and offshore islands (in Hudson, James and Ungava Bays) that are today part of Nunavut.
  • The District of Yukon was made up of what is today the Yukon.
  • The District of Mackenzie was the rest, stretching from the Yukon border in the west to the Keewatin border in the east, and containing none of the islands.
  • The District of Athabasca expanded and covered the northern half of what is today both Alberta and Saskatchewan.

1898[edit]

The North-West Territories shrunk in 1898 when the Klondike Gold Rush necessitated the conversion of the District of Yukon into the autonomous Yukon Territory. As well, the southernmost part of Ungava was ceded to Quebec.

1901[edit]

A minor boundary adjustment was made, as a small portion of land in the northwestern portion of Mackenzie District was ceded to the Yukon Territory.

1905[edit]

The North-West Territories experienced significant adjustments in 1905:

  • The Districts of Alberta, Assiniboia, Athabasca, and Saskatchewan were reorganized to form the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • The original independent territory 'District of Keewatin', which had shrunk considerably from its 1876 size as large portions of its area had been converted into the expansion of Manitoba and Ontario, gave up its autonomy and became a district within the North-West Territories.
  • A small eastern portion of the (now) defunct Districts of Saskatchewan and Athabaska were added to the District of Keewatin.
  • A portion of the District of Mackenzie was added to the District of Keewatin.
  • The hyphen was removed from North-West Territories, so that the area was now named the Northwest Territories.
  • The Northwest Territories now consisted of the Districts of Franklin, Ungava, Mackenzie and Keewatin.

1912[edit]

The Northwest Territories experienced further attrition in 1912:

  • The entire continental portion of the District of Ungava was converted into the northern expansion of the province of Quebec. Only the district's 1500+ almost entirely uninhabited offshore islands remained part of the Northwest Territories; they were formally made a part of the Franklin District in 1920.
  • Most of the District of Keewatin (i.e., everything south of 60 degrees north) was converted into the northern expansion of the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.

The Northwest Territories now consisted of the Districts of Franklin, Mackenzie and Keewatin. Ungava was still technically a district until 1920, but with no population to administer, this district designation was effectively unused after 1912.

The three remaining districts continued to be used for a number of decades, but as control over the territory was moved from departments of the federal government to a centralized government in Yellowknife starting in 1967, they began to have far less use. Although the Districts of Franklin, Mackenzie and Keewatin continued to appear on many maps (and were technically still extant), by the 1980s the actual practical governance of the Northwest Territories was divided into four administrative regions: Inuvik, Fort Smith, Keewatin and Baffin. A fifth region, the Central Arctic Region and subsequently called the Kitikmeot, was later carved out of the Fort Smith Region.

1999[edit]

In 1999 the Northwest Territories was reduced to its current size - and the notion of the 'districts' was abolished - with the creation of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. The former District of Keewatin, most of the Arctic Islands of the District of Franklin, and a northwest portion of the District of Mackenzie now form Nunavut, with the remainder of Franklin and the majority of Mackenzie forming the current version of the Northwest Territories.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Acts of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Ottawa: Brown Chamberlin Law Printer (for Canada), 1886 
  2. ^ Fung, Professor of Geography, University of Saskatchewan., Dr. K.I.; Richards,, J. Howard, Evolution-boundaries-1882: (1969). Atlas of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Modern Press., retrieved 2007-10-12 
  3. ^ Fung, Professor of Geography, University of Saskatchewan., Dr. K.I.; Richards,, J. Howard, Evolution-boundaries-1895: (1969). Atlas of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Modern Press., retrieved 2007-10-12 
  4. ^ The Atlas of Canada - Territorial Evolution, 1895, retrieved 2007-10-12 

External links[edit]