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
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
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
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 Métis, 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
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.
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