Saskatchewan (province, Canada)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Saskatchewan (province, Canada)

Saskatchewan (səskăch´əwən, –wän´, săs´–), province (2001 pop. 978,933), 251,700 sq mi (651,903 sq km), W Canada.


Saskatchewan is bounded by the Northwest Territories (N), Manitoba (E), North Dakota and Montana (S), and Alberta (W). One of the Prairie Provinces, its northern third is part of the Canadian Shield. The principal rivers are the Churchill, North and South Saskatchewan, and Qu'Appelle. Between the Saskatchewan and Churchill rivers lies a mixed forest belt that provides much timber; a section is preserved as Prince Albert National Park.

Only in S Saskatchewan has there been substantial settlement and development. Regina is the capital and second largest city; Saskatoon is the largest city, and Prince Albert and Moose Jaw are other important centers.

Economy and Higher Education

Except for a semiarid section in the southwest used for grazing and an area in the east and central portion given over to mixed farming and dairying, the land is devoted to the raising of hard wheat. Saskatchewan normally produces two thirds of Canada's wheat. The vast expanses of unbroken plain are well suited to large-scale mechanized farming. Oats, barley, rye, rapeseed, and flax are also grown throughout this region. The historic occupation of fur trapping is still practiced.

Saskatchewan is rich in minerals. Oil and natural gas, found under the prairie, are by far the province's most important minerals. The region north of Lake Athabaska has been exploited for ores yielding uranium. The area around Flin Flon, in the northeast, is mined for copper, zinc, and gold. Coal is mined in the southwest. Potash mining began in the 1950s near Saskatoon and Esterhazy, and Canada is now a leading producer of the mineral. Most of the province's industries process raw materials.

Institutions of higher education include Aldergate College, at Moose Jaw; the Univ. of Regina; and the Univ. of Saskatchewan, at Saskatoon.

History and Politics

Original inhabitants of Saskatchewan include tribes of three linguistic groups: the Athabascan, Algonquian, and Siouan. Henry Kelsey of the Hudson's Bay Company was probably the first European to see (c.1690) the area. The earliest trading posts were established (c.1750) by the French, but the first permanent settlement was made at Cumberland House in 1774 by the HBC. Subsequently many other posts were set up by British fur traders along the region's waterways.

In 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), which had merged with the North West Company in 1821, ceded its rights to the Canadian government, and the area became part of the Northwest Territories. The construction of a rail line (1882) brought many settlers from E Canada (and later from Europe) and opened up trade through the Great Lakes ports. Most Canadians of indigenous descent in the Northwest Territories sold their lands to the government in the 1870s and were placed on reservations. Other native peoples and Métis—people of mixed French and indigenous Canadian ancestry, led by Louis Riel—rebelled in 1884–85 and were suppressed.

Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. In the early 20th cent. Saskatchewan farmers formed cooperative organizations to stabilize grain marketing. During the drought and depression of the 1930s the population declined as immigration almost stopped and many families left. Conservation programs and the increased demand for grain during World War II revived the economy.

Except for the period 1964–71, when the Liberals were in power, Saskatchewan was governed (1944–82) by the socialist New Democratic party (NDP, until 1961 called the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation). Among the NDP's achievements was the enactment of compulsory hospital and medical insurance. The Progressive Conservative party, with Grant Divine as premier, was in power from 1982 until 1991, when Roy Romanow led the NDP back to power (in coalition with the Liberals after 1999). In 2001, Lorne Calvert of the NDP became premier, succeeding Romanow, who resigned. The 2003 elections also resulted in an NDP victory, giving the party a slim majority in the legislative assembly. In 2007 the Saskatchewan party, a center-right party formed in 1997, won a legislative majority and Brad Wall became premier; the party won in 2011 as well.

Saskatchewan sends 6 senators and 14 representatives to the national parliament.


See E. A. McCourt, Saskatchewan (1968); S. M. Lipset, Agrarian Socialism (new and enl. ed. 1972); D. E. Smith, Prairie Liberalism (1975); J. H. Archer, Saskatchewan: A History (1980); Canadian Plains Research Centre, The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan (2005).

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