Northwest Territories

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Northwest Territories,

territory (2001 pop. 37,360), 532,643 sq mi (1,379,028 sq km), NW Canada. The Northwest Territories lie W of Nunavut, N of lat. 60°N, and E of Yukon. Until 1999, when the Northwest Territories were divided and the eastern portion became NunavutNunavut
[Inuktituk,=our land], territory (2001 pop. 26,745), 772,260 sq mi (2,000,671 sq km), NE Canada. The capital and largest town is Iqaluit on Baffin Island at Frobisher Bay.
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, the region occupied more than one third of Canada's area. YellowknifeYellowknife,
city (1991 pop. 15,179), capital of the Northwest Territories, Canada, on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, at the mouth of the Yellowknife River. It is the largest city in the Northwest Territories and a supply and transportation center, with an airport, radio
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 is the territorial capital.

Land and People

Geographically, the region is largely south of the tree line, which runs roughly northwest to southeast, from the Mackenzie River delta in the Arctic Ocean to the southeastern corner of the territory. Tundratundra
, treeless plains of N North America and N Eurasia, lying principally along the Arctic Circle, on the coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean, and to the north of the coniferous forest belt.
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 characterizes the land north of the tree line; there the native inhabitants depend on hunting, fur-trapping, and making arts and crafts for income, and obtain many necessities from fish, seals, reindeer, and caribou. Most of the development in the territory has taken place south of the tree line, where the land is well covered with soft woods and rich in minerals. Here, too, are two of the largest lakes in the world, Great SlaveGreat Slave Lake,
second largest lake of Canada, c.10,980 sq mi (28,400 sq km), Northwest Territories, named for the Slave (Dogrib), a tribe of Native Americans. It is c.
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 and Great BearGreat Bear Lake,
largest lake of Canada and fourth largest of North America, c.12,275 sq mi (31,800 sq km), c.190 mi (310 km) long and from 25 to 110 mi (40–177 km) wide, Northwest Territories, on the edge of the Canadian Shield.
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, linked to the Arctic Ocean by one of the world's longest rivers, the MackenzieMackenzie,
river, c.1,120 mi (1,800 km) long, issuing from Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada, and flowing generally NW to the Arctic Ocean through a great delta. Between Great Slave Lake and Lake Athabasca it is known as the Slave River.
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, which runs 1,120 mi (1,800 km) from its source in Great Slave Lake. The Northwest Territories are the site of the northern end of Wood Buffalo National Park (est. 1922) and all of Nahanni National Park (est. 1972).


Agriculture in the Northwest Territories is virtually impossible except for limited cultivation south of the Mackenzie River region. Trapping, the region's oldest industry, ranks second after mining. A thriving commercial fishing industry, based on whitefish and lake trout, is centered on the village of Hay River, on Great Slave Lake. Minerals are now the Territories' most valuable natural resource. Oil is pumped and refined at Tulita (formerly Fort Norman) and Norman Wells on the Mackenzie River; copper is extracted on the Coppermine River; and diamonds and gold are being produced in increasing quantities. The region also has tungsten, silver, cadmium, nickel, zinc, and lead. Important hydroelectric developments are on the Talston and Snare rivers.

Transportation and Communication

Transportation and communication in the Northwest Territories are difficult. Long winters close the rivers to navigation for all but two months of the year. Despite the Great Slave Railway and the Mackenzie highway system, which links Alberta to the Great Slave area, commerce, supply, and travel continue to be largely airborne. The region has scores of airfields. An ongoing northern roads program, launched in 1966, is helping to open up the area. The Liard Highway, opened in 1984, ties Ft. Simpson to the Alaska Highway. Other highways link Inuvik to the Yukon and Hay River and Yellowknife to the highways of Alberta. In winter, some frozen rivers and lakes are used for road traffic. There are also extensive telecommunications services.


The territory is governed by a 19-member assembly that elects a premier and cabinet; an appointed commissioner holds a position similar to that of a lieutenant governor in the Canadians provinces. The territory sends one senator and one representative to the national parliament.


When European incursions into the area began, they encountered the hunting and fishing Inuit and Dene. Vikings from Greenland may have been the first Europeans to venture into the eastern portion of the Northwest Territories, now Nunavut. Sir Martin FrobisherFrobisher, Sir Martin
, 1535?–1594, English mariner. He went to sea as a boy, and spent much of his youth in the African trade. He later gained the friendship of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, through whom he became interested in the Northwest Passage.
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 was the first in a long line of explorers to seek a Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage,
water routes through the Arctic Archipelago, N Canada, and along the northern coast of Alaska between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Even though the explorers of the 16th cent.
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, but it was Henry HudsonHudson, Henry,
fl. 1607–11, English navigator and explorer. He was hired (1607) by the English Muscovy Company to find the Northeast Passage to Asia. He failed, and another attempt (1608) to find a new route was also fruitless.
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 who discovered the gateway to the Northwest (Hudson Bay) in 1610.

For several decades the Hudson's Bay CompanyHudson's Bay Company,
corporation chartered (1670) by Charles II of England for the purpose of trade and settlement in the Hudson Bay region of North America and for exploration toward the discovery of the Northwest Passage to Asia.
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 sent trader-explorers through the northern sea lanes and along the coast, and in 1771, Samuel HearneHearne, Samuel
, 1745–92, British fur trader, explorer in N Canada. He entered the British navy at the age of 11 and saw service in the naval battles of the Seven Years War.
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 walked from Hudson Bay and descended the Coppermine River. In 1789, Alexander MackenzieMackenzie, Alexander,
1822–92, Canadian political leader, b. Scotland. Emigrating (1842) to Canada, he worked first as a stonemason in Kingston, Ont., and then as a builder and contractor in Sarnia. In Lambton he became editor (1852) of a Liberal newspaper.
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, exploring for the North West Company, journeyed to the mouth of the Mackenzie River. Sir John FranklinFranklin, Sir John,
1786–1847, British explorer in N Canada whose disappearance caused a widespread search of the Arctic. Entering the navy in 1801, he fought in the battle of Trafalgar.
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 made scientific expeditions to the Arctic Northwest in the first half of the 19th cent., obtaining valuable geographical data.

The area that is now the Northwest Territories and Nunavut was part of the vast lands sold by the Hudson's Bay Company to the new Canadian confederation in 1870. Some of those lands were added to the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The province of Manitoba was carved from them in 1870, and Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, all south of 60°N. YukonYukon,
territory (2001 pop. 28,674), 207,076 sq mi (536,327 sq km), NW Canada. Geography and Climate

The triangle-shaped territory is bordered on the N by the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean, on the E by the Northwest Territories, on the S by British Columbia and
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 had become separate in 1898. The boundaries of the Northwest Territories were then set in 1912 and remained fixed until the creation of Nunavut in 1999. In 2013 an agreement between the territorial and federal governments called for Northwest Territories to assume control over public lands and natural resources in 2014.

Since the 1982 patriation of the Canadian constitution (see Canada ActCanada Act,
also called the Constitutional Act of 1982, which made Canada a fully sovereign state. The British Parliament approved it on Mar. 25, 1982, and Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed it on Apr. 17, 1982.
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), several land claims by native peoples have been making their way through the courts and the federal government. In 1992, Northwest Territories residents voted to divide the territory roughly along ethnic lines, with the Inuit in the east and the Dene in the west. The new territory of Nunavut, dominated by the Inuit, came into existence on Apr. 1, 1999. This split the Northwest Territories along a zigzag line running from the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border through the Arctic Archipelago to the North Pole. Other native groups with claims are the Métis and the Inuvialuit. Caroline Cochrane has been the Territories' premier since Oct., 2019.


See R. A. Phillips, Canada: The Story of the Yukon and Northwest Territories (1966); K. J. Rea, Political Economy of the North (1968, repr. 1981); W. C. Wonders, ed., The North (1972); T. R. Berger, Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland (1976).

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Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Northwest Territories


an administrative unit of Canada. Area, 3.78 million sq km. Population, 39,000, including 11,000 Eskimo and 7,000 Indians (1971). The city of Yel-lowknife is the capital.

The Northwest Territories occupies the northern part of the North American continent and includes the Canadian Arctic Archipelago; more than four-fifths of the region lies within the Laurentian Upland (Canadian Shield). To the west are the Mackenzie Mountains, with elevations to 2,164 m. The climate is subpolar and subarctic. Average monthly temperatures range from 3°–16°C to -28°C and -36°C. Annual precipitation varies from 150 to 400 mm. Vegetation is primarily of the tundra and forest-tundra type; there are coniferous forests in the southwest.

The Northwest Territories is one of the least-developed parts of Canada. Its economy is based on mining. Zinc and lead are mined at Pine Point, gold at Yellowknife, and tungsten at Tungsten; petroleum is extracted at Norman Wells. The principal occupations of the indigenous population are fur trapping (arctic fox and muskrat) and fishing (whitefish and trout). The Mackenzie River is the region’s principal transportation artery.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Yellowknife: Northwest Territories Wildlife Service.
Brown, Our Lady of the Snows Mission, Colville Lake, Northwest Territories.
Asia, a continent with 4.4 billion people that is reaching out to the rest of the world for natural resources, is a likely market and partner-with China as a prime source of investment capital for Alaska and the Northwest Territories. The country has nearly 1.5 billion people and a growing I need for energy.
"We have been working hard to re-establish a vibrant secondary diamond industry in the Northwest Territories and this signals a rebirth of that industry.
* The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet people in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in Canada yesterday
250 miles (400km) south of the Arctic Circle and in the heart of the wilderness, Yellowknife is the capital and largest city of the Northwest Territories. The town was first settled in 1935 after locals found gold in the area, and Yellowknife soon became the center of economic activity in the Northwest Territories.
When the Royal couple formally arrive in the region's capital, Yellowknife, they will join the premier of the Northwest Territories Floyd Roland, a former minor league ice hockey coach and player, for a game of "shinny" or street hockey and are expected to drop a puck or shoot a few penalties.
His joy is dashed when he discovers that his RCMP father has just been transferred to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Miserable about leaving his friends, Mike is reluctant to embrace the North.
of Toronto, Canada) examines the political culture of Nunavut, the political territory carved out of the Canada's Northwest Territories in 1999 in accordance with the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Nunavut X1A 1 N2
Idaho hunter Jim Martell was polar bear hunting on Banks Island, Canada Northwest Territories last April when he got his game.
The diamond-mining cartel released its Snap Lake Socio-Economic Report for 2005, as required by its agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

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