The First Peoples

First Nations people lived in different areas of the province
  • Northern Saskatchewan (forests, many lakes, cold winters) - Chipewyan (Dene), the Anishinabe
  • Central Saskatchewan (forests, rivers, hills) - the forest and plains Cree and the Blackfoot
  • Southern Plains (dry grasslands, mostly flat land) - Assiniboine (Nakota), Gros Ventre and Sioux (Nakoda)

Explorers and the fur trade

  • The northern wooded areas of the province were developed first because of the fur trade.
  • Henry Kelsey ( 1690 ) of the Hudson's Bay Company traveled along the Saskatchewan River trying to get the First Nations people to trade their furs. He was the first white man to enter the Saskatchewan territory.
  • Anthony Henday ( 1754 ) traveled into the plains area, and Samuel Hearne (1774) built a Hudson's Bay Company post at Cumberland House where the First Nations people could come and trade furs. This was the first permanent settlement in Saskatchewan.
  • Peter Pond explored the northwest part of the province (1778) and drew maps.
  • The Hudson's Bay Company sent more people to explore the province.
  • Other trading posts and forts were built along the rivers.
  • The North West Company also built forts and collected furs. Then the two companies joined into one large company.
  • York boats were used instead of canoes to carry nig loads on the waterways. Red River carts carried goods on land.
  • Small settlements grew near the trading posts.
  • By the 1850s the fur trade had declined.

The railroad and settlement

  • To maintain law and order in the west the Canadian Government created the North West Mounted Police. The force marched west (1874) and established Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills in 1875. Other forts included Fort Battleford, fort Pitt, Fort Carlton and Wood Mountain Post.
  • After 1878 the Canadian government began to encourage settlement in the west
  • The Metis (people of mixed French or European and Aboriginal parents) settled and farmed.
  • It was decided to build a railroad to join the eastern provinces with British Columbia in the west. The railroad would bring settlers to the west. It could also be used for shipping farm products to eastern Canada.
  • Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway began in 1872 but was not completed until 1885.
  • The government gave free land to people who were willing to settle in the west. Homesteaders began arriving.

Metis uprising

  • The Plains First Nations who travelled about following the herds of buffalo were placed on reservations.
  • The Métis (mixed First Nations and French heritage) were concerned about all the settlers coming to Saskatchewan. They had difficulty finding places to settle down and farm.
  • In 1883, the Métis of Saskatchewan united under the leadership of Louis Riel and began to seek self-government. They wanted their own land but their requests were ignored.
  • Louis Riel led the Métis in an uprising in 1885 called the Northwest Rebellion. The uprising ended quickly.

More homesteaders arrive

  • More settlers came from eastern Canada, Europe and the United States.
  • Companies brought large groups of people. They settled together in one area.
  • The homesteaders managed to survive the long cold winters in their log cabins or sod huts. They also lived through drought, grasshoppers and prairie fires.
  • Towns grew along the railroad tracks.

Saskatchewan becomes a province (1905)

  • Between 1895 and 1914 much of the prairies was turned into farmland.
  • By 1914 the population was 750,000 people.
  • By 1931 the population reached 921,785.
  • In the 1930s the farmers had to deal with drought (very little rainfall) amd crop failures. Farming came to a standstill.
  • Many people left the province to look for jobs. The population dropped by 26,000 between 1931 and 1941
  • In the 1940s and 50s there was growth in mining and oil production.


2003 (updated March 2017)

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