Northwest Territories, a portion of the Dominion of Canada, comprising the greater part of the former Hudson Bay territory, bounded N. by the Arctic ocean and Hudson strait, and E. by the portion of Labrador belonging to Newfoundland and by Quebec. On the south it has for its boundary, E. of the Rocky mountains, Quebec, Ontario, the United States, Manitoba, and again the United States (along the parallel of 49° N.); and W. of that range, British Columbia along the parallel of 60°. Its TV. boundary, S. of the 60th parallel, is formed by the Rocky mountains, separating it from British Columbia, and N. of that line by Alaska, along the meridian of 141° TV. Its E. extremity is in lon. 65° TV. Much of the E. portion is occupied by Hudson bay, with its S. projection, James bay. The length E. and TV is about 2,500 m.; breadth of the mainland X. and S., 1,500 m.; estimated area, including the islands in the Arctic ocean, about 2,750,000 sq. m. The southwestern portion is generally level or rolling; further E. the surface is extremely uneven, with mountains in places 1,000 ft. high, and is interspersed with extensive marshes. For 600 m. W. of Hudson bay there is generally a rise of 2 ft. to the mile.
N. of about lat. 56° there is a descent for a distance of upward of 1,200 m. to the Arctic ocean. The numerous great lakes which succeed each other in a N. N. W. and S. S. E. direction are a prominent feature of the country. The largest of these, commencing at the south, are Winnipeg (with Manitoba and Winnipegosis), Deer, Wollaston, Athabasca, Great Slave, and Great Bear. There are two great river systems, the one discharging its waters directly into the Arctic ocean and the other into Hudson bay. The great arctic river is the Mackenzie, which with its upper portion, the Slave and Athabasca, and its tributaries, Peace and Mountain rivers, drains the W. portion of the Northwest territories, and discharges the waters of Athabasca, Great Slave, and Great Bear lakes. E. of the Mackenzie the Arctic ocean receives Coppermine river and Back or Great Fish river. The chief tributaries of Hudson bay, besides several from the east, are the Abbitibbe from the south, and the Albany, Severn, Nelson, and English or Churchill from the west. Nelson river is the outlet of Lake Winnipeg, and the Churchill discharges the waters of Deer lake and a part of those of Wollaston lake, the rest flowing into Athabasca lake.
Lake Winnipeg receives at its S. E. extremity Winnipeg river, which discharges the waters of the lake of the Woods, and through Rainy river those of Rainy lake on the United States border. From the west Lake Winnipeg receives through Dauphin river the waters of Manitoba and Winnipegosis lakes, and at the N. W. extremity the Saskatchewan river, which, rising by several branches in the Rocky mountains, drains the S. W. portion of the Northwest territories. The Assiniboin river rises W. of Lake Winnipegosis, and flowing S. E. and E. joins the Red river in Manitoba. - The geology of this region is not accurately known. A belt of azoic rocks, 150 or 200 m. wide, and apparently of the Huronian and Laurentian formations, stretches N. W. from the shore of Lake Superior to the Arctic ocean, between the mouth of the Coppermine river and lon. 95°. This belt is bordered on the west for the most part by a margin of Silurian and Devonian rocks. The extensive region W. of this consists of different formations, the cretaceous being extensively developed in the south. There are extensive beds of lignite on the Mackenzie river. The Athabasca flows through beds of limestone, broken occasionally by cliffs of clay slate, while in the vicinity are found sulphur, iron, bitumen, and plumbago.
The Peace river region has plaster quarries and carboniferous deposits, and there are deposits of coal on the upper Saskatchewan. N. of the lower Saskatchewan there is an extensive belt of primary rocks, with limestone strata of Silurian formation in the vicinity. In the Devonian formation on the W. shore of Lakes Manitoba and Winnipegosis there are numerous salt springs. The region E. of Hudson bay is composed chiefly of the Laurentian formation. From James bay around the W. side of Hudson bay there is a broad margin of Silurian and Devonian rocks, extending to the Arctic ocean. About 30 m. from the sea copper has been found on the Coppermine river, but not in large quantities. Before the use of iron was known to them, the northern or Coppermine Indians used the copper for hatchets, ice chisels, and arrow heads. - The climate of the Northwest territories is severe, and in the greater portion of the country agriculture is not practicable. In the north permanent frost is found a few feet below the surface, the ground thawing to a slight depth only in the brief summer. The western portion has a higher temperature than the eastern, the isothermal line tending N. as we proceed W. from Hudson bay.
In the S. part, W. of the 100th meridian, there is a considerable tract that suffers from lack of moisture. The entire region N. E. of the chain of lakes and the Mackenzie river, with small exceptions, is a barren waste, valuable only for its furs. The climate is inhospitable, pasturage is wanting, and the surface is clothed only with a scanty growth of stunted trees. The region W. of this may be subdivided into the desert, the prairie, and the forest. The desert, the N. extremity of what was formerly called the great American desert, occupies the S. W. portion, bounded N. E. by a somewhat irregular line commencing at the 100th meridian and 49th parallel, and extending N. W., crossing the 52d parallel at the 113th meridian, and reaching as far N. as the 55th parallel. This section embraces about 50,000 sq. m. It is too arid for agriculture, its principal production being prairie hay (sys-teria dactyloides), which preserves its flavor and nutritive properties through the winter, and is eagerly sought for by the bison (buffalo) and by domestic animals. N. and N. E. of the desert is the prairie section, comprising about 50,000 sq. m., covered in summer with rich verdure, which affords excellent pasturage, and diversified with occasional clumps of poplars, aspens, and birches.
The soil is generally fertile, but the climate, often hot in summer, is very cold in winter, and late and early frosts are common. Storms of wind and hail are frequent in this region. N. of the prairie is the forest section, comprising about 480,000 sq. m., and containing within its limits occasional prairies, as in the valleys of Peace and Mountain rivers. It embraces tracts capable of cultivation, particularly along the principal streams and around the larger lakes, which moderate the temperature. Fires are constantly devastating the wooded country and adding to the area of the prairies. The best agricultural regions are the valley of Peace river, the district along the upper waters of the Athabasca, and the valley of the Saskatchewan, except along its lower course. These tracts are capable of producing the root crops, wheat, barley, etc. The region in the vicinity of Rainy river, the lake of the Woods, and Winnipeg river, and the islands in Lake Winnipeg, are well wooded, the chief trees being red and white pine, cedar, oak, elm, and ash. W. of the 100th meridian the principal trees are the poplar, spruce, gray pine, balsam fir, and birch. The ash-leaved maple, which yields sugar, is found as far N. as the 55th parallel and as far W. as the 107th meridian.
Various kinds of berries are common. The fauna of the country includes bears, badgers, raccoons, wolverenes, weasels, ermines or stoats, minks, martens, pekans or fishers, otters, skunks, Esquimaux and other dogs, wolves, foxes, lynxes, beavers, muskrats, lemmings, marmots, squirrels, porcupines, hares, moose, caribou or reindeer, the wapiti or stag, deer, antelope, musk ox, and bison. The polar bear is found only in the north, the grisly bear in the southwest; the brown bear frequents the barren region of the northeast as far up as the Arctic ocean, while the black bear is widely diffused. There are two species of the caribou, the one frequenting the barren region, the other the wooded country. The musk ox is found only in the barren wastes in the north. Vast herds of bisons formerly roamed over the plains W. of Red river, but they are rapidly disappearing before the hunters, and are now found chiefly on the N. branch of the Saskatchewan. The seal and walrus are found on the shores of the Arctic ocean. Various species of birds are common, the most useful of which are the grouse, ptarmigan, plover, lapwing, crane, and water fowl, such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls, and pelicans, which breed in the northern regions in summer.
The principal rivers and larger lakes are well stocked with fish, including perch, carp, pike, whitefish, sturgeon, etc. - The white inhabitants, scattered at the various Hudson Bay company's posts and employed by the company, number about 2,500. The greater portion are Scotch (chiefly from the Orkney islands), with some French Canadians and other nationalities. The half-breeds, for the most part similarly employed, number about 5,000. Archbishop Tache estimates the Indian population (excluding Labrador) at 60,-000, viz.: Algonquins, 30,000; Assiniboins, 4,000; Blackfeet, 6,000; Chipewyans, 15,000; Esquimaux, 5,000. The Algonquins occupy chiefly the region E. of the Rocky mountains and S. of Churchill river, and in a large part of it are found to the exclusion of other races. This family consists of three tribes: the Saul-teaux or Chippeways, who occupy a belt 3° or 4° wide N. of the 49th parallel, extending as far W. as the 105th meridian; the Maskegons or Swampies, N. of these as far as Hudson bay; and the Crees, situated between the other two and extending to the Rocky mountains.
The Crees are subdivided into two sections, the plain Crees and the forest Crees. The Assiniboins or Stonies are a branch of the Sioux family, and occupy a narrow strip of country stretching from the upper part of the Athabasca river S. E. to the Mouse, a S. affluent of the Assiniboin. They are subdivided into the Assiniboins of the plains and the Assiniboins of the forest. The Blackfeet roam over the W. portion of the plains S. of the Saskatchewan, and are subdivided into three tribes: the Sixika or Blackfeet proper, the Pieganew or Piegans, and the Bloods or Kena. With these are connected the Sards, who speak a different language. The Chipewyans, divided into several groups, inhabit the valley of the lower Athabasca, the Slave, and the upper Mackenzie rivers, as well as the region watered by the Churchill, except in its lower course. (See Tinne.) The Esquimaux occupy the extreme north, along the shore of the Arctic ocean and the coast of Hudson bay as far S. as the 60th parallel. These Indians, except those inhabiting the plains of the southwest, are peaceable. They subsist by hunting, trapping, and fishing.
The furs, which are the sole export of the country, are purchased by the Hudson Bay company. (See Fur.) There are numerous Roman Catholic, a number of Anglican, and a few Methodist and Presbyterian missions among the Indians, and many of them have embraced the Christian religion. - The government of the Northwest territories, by an act of 1875, is vested in a lieutenant governor and a council of not more than five members, appointed by the governor general in council. As soon as any district of not more than 1,000 sq. m. contains 1,000 adult inhabitants, it may elect a member of the council for two years, and a second member when such inhabitants number 2,000. When there are 21 elected members, they will constitute a legislative assembly, and the appointed council will cease. - In 1670 Charles H. granted to Prince Rupert and 14 others and their successors, under the title of "the governor and company of adventurers of England trading into Hudson's bay" (commonly called the Hudson Bay company), "the sole trade and commerce of all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks, and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie within the entrance of the straits commonly called Hudson's straits, together with all the lands and territories upon the countries, coasts, and confines of the sea, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks, and sounds aforesaid," not previously granted.
This region was held by the company to embrace all the territory watered by streams flowing into Hudson or James bay, and was denominated in the charter " Rupert's Land." The company was by the charter invested with the ownership of the soil and with governmental powers within the region. The country W. of this, watered by streams flowing into the Arctic and Pacific oceans, was distinguished as the Indian or Northwest territory. In 1783 the Northwest company was chartered, with headquarters at Montreal, for the purpose of carrying on the fur trade. The two companies had frequent collisions till 1821, when the Northwest company was merged in the Hudson bay company. In that year the British government granted the latter company a license of exclusive trade in the Indian territory for a period of 21 years, and in 1838 a new license for 21 years. After its expiration in 1859 the company continued to carry on the fur trade in the Indian territory, though possessing no special privilege there. In 1858 the colony of British Columbia was formed from the W. portion of the Indian territory, and in 1859 Vancouver island, in which in 1849 a license of exclusive trade and management for 10 years had been granted to the company, was erected into a colony; while in 1870 the province of Manitoba was created in the Red river valley, reducing the region formerly under the control of the Hudson Bay company (and commonly called the Hudson Bay territory) as proprietor or grantee of a trading monopoly to the limits described at the beginning of this article.
Before the last mentioned date, however, the company had become a mere commercial organization. The parliamentary act of 1867 creating the Dominion of Canada contemplated the acquisition by that government of the Hudson Bay territory, and negotiations were opened which resulted in the surrender by the company to the crown of all its territorial and governmental rights, by deed dated Nov. 19, 1869. It retained its posts with a small lot of land around each of them, and reserved the right to certain portions of land in the fertile belt S. of the N. branch of the Saskatchewan. The Canadian government agreed to pay in return the sum of £300,000. The country became a part of the Dominion on July 15, 1870, in accordance with a royal proclamation of June 23. An act of the Dominion parliament of June 22,1869, had provided for its government, when annexed, under the name of the Northwest territories. - The Hudson Bay company in its trading capacity extends its operations beyond the regions already described, into portions of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and that part of Labrador under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland. At one time it had posts on United States territory, in Oregon, Washington territory, and Alaska. Its fur trade has been of vast extent, and its profits at times enormous.
In its dealings with the Indians it has had remarkable success. The field of operations is divided into four departments: the Montreal department, which includes the establishments in Quebec, in the Newfoundland portion of Labrador, and in the adjacent portions of the Northwest territories; the southern department, including the establishments in the remainder of the Northwest territories E. of the 90th meridian and those in Ontario; the northern department, embracing the portion of the Northwest territories W. of the 90th meridian; and the western department, W. of the Rocky mountains. These were placed in charge of a governor (formerly the governor of Rupert's Land), under whom were different grades of officers and employees, known as chief factors, chief traders, clerks, apprenticed clerks, postmasters, interpreters, and numerous guides, boatmen, etc. The governor was assisted by a council of chief factors and traders for each department, which met annually. Under a recent reorganization the principal officer is denominated chief commissioner, under whom are inspecting chief factors, factors, chief traders, junior chief traders, etc.
The departments are subdivided into districts, each under the superintendence of a factor or trader, and the districts include various posts or forts in charge of officers of different grades. The officers and employees are remunerated as formerly, in part by fixed salaries and in part by a percentage of profits. In 1856 the whole number of employees was about 3,000, including the governor, 16 chief factors, 29 chief traders, 5 surgeons, 87 clerks, 67 postmasters, 1,200 permanent servants, and 500 voyageurs, with temporary employees, chiefly voyageurs and servants. At that date there was a fifth department, Oregon, and the whole number of districts was 33, and of posts 152. At the time of the surrender to the crown there were 20 districts within the present limits of the Northwest territories and Manitoba, viz.: Albany, Athabasca, Cumberland, East Main, English River, Kinogumisse, Labrador, Mackenzie River, Manitoba Lake, Moose, Norway House, Portage la Prairie, Rainy Lake (Lac la Pluie), Red River, Rupert's River, Saskatchewan, Superior, Swan River, Temiscamingue, and York; these contained 120 posts.
The northernmost post is the "Ramparts," on the Porcupine river and the Alaska border, about lat. 67°. The two most important posts are York Factory, on Hudson bay near the mouth of Nelson river, and Fort Garry in Manitoba. The latter is the company's headquarters in America; the former until a recent period was the sole point of import and shipment, and is still visited by one or two vessels annually; but the greater part of the trade is now carried on through the United States, by way of Manitoba. Communication between the different posts and transportation of goods are effected in winter by means of dog sledges, and in summer by means of canoes and boats on the streams, frequent portages around rapids and between different watercourses being in many cases necessary. - See "Notes of a Twenty-five Years' Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory," by S. McLean (2 vols., London, 1849); "The Hudson's Bay Territories," etc, by R. M. Martin (London, 1849); "Exploration of the Country between Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement," by J. S. Dawson (Toronto, 1859); " Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploration Expedition of 1857," etc, by II. Y. Hind (2 vols., London, 1860); Esquisse sur le Nord-Ouest, by Archbishop Tache (Montreal, 1869; translated by Capt. D. R. Cameron, " Sketch of the Northwest of America," Montreal, 1870); "Peace River: a Canoe Voyage from Hudson's Bay to the Pacific in 1828," edited by Malcolm McLeod (Ottawa, 1872); "The Great Lone Land," etc, by Capt. W. F. Butler (London, 1872); and "The Wild North Land," etc, by the same (1873).