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Saskatchewan

The Land

Located in the prairie region of Canada, Saskatchewan is bordered by
Manitoba, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the United States, and
is the only Canadian province with entirely man-made boundaries. The
province is rectangular in shape and is 651 900 km2 in area. Half of it
consists of forests, one-third of cultivated lands, and one-eighth is
covered with water.

The northern zone rests on a formation of Precambrian rock
characteristic of the Canadian Shield. As a result, there are numerous
(over 100 000) lakes, rivers, bogs and rocky outcroppings.

The southern part of the province is relatively flat, with occasional
valleys created by erosion from the glacial era. This prairie zone is
where most of the people live.

Camel caravans might not seem out of place in certain parts of
Saskatchewan. Athabasca Provincial Park has sand dunes 30 metres high
and semi-arid vegetation. Nowhere else in the world are dunes found this
far north.

The name Saskatchewan comes from the Cree word «kisiskatchewanisipi,»
which means «swift-flowing river.» The province has four major rivers:
the Assiniboine, the North Saskatchewan, the South Saskatchewan and the
Churchill.

The whole province enjoys a hot, dry summer but the town of Estevan is
the undisputed «sunshine capital» of Canada, enjoying 2 540 hours of
sunshine per year.

The History

The first European explorers and trappers to visit Saskatchewan found
established settlements of Aboriginal people. The Chipewyan Indians
lived in the north; the Assiniboine inhabited the eastern plains, while
the nomadic Blackfoot roamed the west. The territory of the Cree, who
were long-time residents of the north, also extended southward to the
plains.

The earliest explorer was Henry Kelsey, a Hudson’s Bay Company agent,
who in about 1690 followed the Saskatchewan River to the southern plains
of Saskatchewan. On the heels of the trappers came fur-trading companies
and trading posts, which became the foundation of many present-day
settlements.

For 200 years, the Hudson’s Bay Company owned and administered the vast
Northwest Territories. Realizing their agricultural potential and the
opportunities for colonization, the Government of Canada acquired the
Territories in 1870. After the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, which
encouraged homesteaders, and another Act to stimulate immigration, the
new railway began bringing settlers in to farm these rich lands.

In 1905, Saskatchewan separated from the Northwest Territories and was
established as a province. Regina became the provincial capital. The
years following were years of prosperity, until the 1929 economic crash,
combined with a decade of drought and bad harvests, brought the lean
years of the Great Depression to the province.

In 1944, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became the first
socialist government elected in North America. Its leader, Tommy
Douglas, led the fight for public hospitalization and medicare, earning
Saskatchewan the reputation as the «social laboratory of North America.»

The recovery of the 1940s and 1950s saw the economy, once dependent
solely on agriculture, become more diversified with the development of
oil, uranium, potash, coal and other minerals.

The People

The Metis, people of mixed European and Aboriginal descent, were among
the first settlers, many of them having migrated from Manitoba. With
land available at token prices, agriculture gradually replaced the fur
trade. A major wave of immigration began in 1899 and continued until
1929.

Today, Saskatchewan’s population stands at approximately 1 024 000.
Saskatchewan is Canada’s only province where the majority of the
population is of neither British nor French background. The population
has a variety of ethnic inheritances — German, Ukrainian, Scandinavian,
Amerindian, Dutch, Polish and Russian, as well as British, French and
many other non-European origins.

Regina and Saskatoon are the two main cities and together have more than
one-third of the total population. Named in recognition of Queen
Victoria (Victoria Regina), the capital is the site of Wascana Centre,
one of the world’s largest urban parks. Saskatoon, which has a larger
population, is bisected by the South Saskatchewan River.

The Economy

Saskatchewan has changed greatly since it became a province in 1905.
Back then, agriculture was the only industry, and it centred on wheat
farming. Today, Saskatchewan produces over 54 percent of the wheat grown
in Canada. Other crops include canola, rye, oats, barley and flaxseed.
Saskatchewan is also a major producer of cattle and hogs. The average
Saskatchewan farm is about 420 hectares in size.

Northern Saskatchewan’s 350 000 km2 of forests are the province’s most
important renewable natural resource. Softwoods (coniferous trees) are
the focal point of forestry development.

Saskatchewan is also a province rich in minerals. Potash, uranium, coal,
oil and natural gas are the leading mineral resources. Saskatchewan’s
almost 19 000 active oil wells produce about 20 percent of Canada’s
total oil output. In addition, with an estimated two-thirds of the
world’s reserves, Saskatchewan is the leading exporter of potash.

Research and development is a growing business in Saskatchewan, as
attested to by the inauguration of Saskatoon’s Innovation Centre and
more recently, the construction of the Canadian Light Source
synchrotron, one of only a few such facilities in the world. The
province’s technological potential in agriculture, space technology and
biotechnology is now recognized internationally.

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