Origin of the Name
The Northwest Territories were inhabited by Inuit and First Nations peoples long before the Europeans arrived in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. Native Inuit included the Mackenzie, Copper, Caribou and Central nations. There were also many nations when the Europeans first arrived, among them the Yellow-Knife, Chipewyan, Sekani, Beaver, Nahanni, Dogrib and Slavey. Some nations in the area spoke a form of the Athapaskan language, the only native language in North America to have traces of an Asiatic origin.
The first European explorers were the Vikings, who sailed to the Eastern Arctic about 1000 AD. However, Martin Frobisher's expeditions in the 1570s were the first recorded visits to the Northwest Territories by an explorer. In 1610, Henry Hudson, while looking for the Northwest Passage, landed briefly on the western shore of the bay that bears his name. His discovery opened the interior of the continent to further exploration.
By the 1700s, the Northwest Territories were dominated by two fur-trading companies: the Hudson's Bay Company, based in London, England, and the North West Company based in Montréal.
At some time in their history, the Northwest Territories have included all of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and most of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
In 1870, the original tiny province of Manitoba was carved out of the area. In 1905, both Alberta and Saskatchewan were created from the Territories. Manitoba was increased in size in 1881 by taking land from the Territories. In 1898, Yukon became a separate territory, while the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec were enlarged by taking land from the Territories in 1912. Even with this loss of land, the Northwest Territories remained Canada's largest political subdivision (with just over a third of the country's total area) until 1999.
In April 1999, the Northwest Territories was divided in two, with 60 percent of the land being transferred to the new territory of Nunavut in Canada's Eastern Arctic.
Coat of Arms
Minerals and fur, the foundation of northern wealth, are represented by gold billets in the green section of the shield and the face of a white fox in the red section. The crest includes two narwhals, and the compass rose between them represents the North Magnetic Pole.
Other Territorial Symbols
- Tartan of the Northwest Territories
- Tamarack (Larix laricina)
- Arctic Grayling
- Native Gold
- Francophone community in the Northwest Territories Flag