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The Northwest Territories consist of 442,000 square miles or 13.5% of the nation of Canada. The territory has a current population of 45,504 people, some of which consist of the Inuit people (Eskimos), who were the first inhabitants of the land. The large region has a diverse landscape that extends to the Arctic Ocean and has arctic ice. The area consists of two climates: subarctic and arctic. The arctic zones can reach a low temperature of negative 32 degrees Celsius and a high of 10 degrees (-27; 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The subarctic is considerably warmer since the lowest average temperature is only negative 22 degrees Celcius and can reach a higher temperature of 21 degrees (-9; 70 degrees Fahrenheit). The climate and landscape provide the ideal habitat for wildlife, including polar bears, barren-ground caribou, beluga, white pelicans, moose, bison, and grizzly bears. The most popular attractions for the territory are Nahanni National Park Reserve, Wood Buffalo National Park, Yellowknife, Great Slave Lake, Hay River, Inuvik, Mackenzie River, and the Northwest Passage. Perhaps the best time of year to visit the Northwest Territories is from June to mid-August. This time of year has the warmest weather and provides ideal conditions for hiking, boating, fishing, and sightseeing.
The Northwest Territories is located in the northern area of Canada. The diverse landscape has deemed the territory with multiple nicknames such as the “Canada’s Last Frontier,” “Land of the Polar Bear,” and “North of Sixty.” The latter nickname stems from the fact that the territory lies north of the 60th parallel, almost reaching the north pole. An additional nickname is the “Land of the Midnight Sun,” given after the extra-long days during the summer when the sun barely sets. On the flip side, the winter months are called “Polar Nights” because it remains virtually 'nighttime' all day long. The Northwest Territories name originated from the British government assigning the title to all the lands held by Hudson’s Bay Company. The region was officially divided on April 1, 1999, making the smaller land area officially the Northwest Territories. The federal territory has a smaller population of 45,504 people within its 442,000 square miles of land. The most populous city, Yellowknife—the capital of the Northwest Territories—has a population of 19,569.
One of the places often visited by travelers to the Northwest Territories is Yellowknife. The capital draws people through the wooden heritage buildings, art institutions, cultural institutions, and the historic community founded on the mining industry. The large landmass of the Northwest Territories is adorned with mountains, treeless tundras, and large rivers, providing high amounts of outdoor recreation for those visiting.
Visiting Nahanni National Park Reserve is the most popular site to explore for tourists and is considered one of the treasures of northern Canada. The park hosts the majority of recreational activities this region has to offer. The strong Nahanni River flows through canyons in the Mackenzie Mountian range, where experienced canoeists and rafters come for a challenging ride. Virginia Falls is also located in Nahanni, where the Nahanni River flows over a 90-meter precipice. The waterfall is almost twice the height of Niagara Falls—located in Canada and the United States. Another activity to do in the park is visiting Rabitkettle Hot Springs. Guests are only allowed in the hot water as part of a guided tour, though visitors can come and enjoy viewing the natural scenery of the attraction. Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada’s largest national park and the second-largest in the world, is another popular attraction. The park is designated to protect herds of wood buffalo but is also a sanctuary for the extremely rare whooping cranes.
North America’s fifth-largest lake, Great Slave Lake, is located in the Northwest Territories connecting Yellowknife, Fort Providence, and Hay River. Great Bear Lake is also found in the territory and is the eighth largest lake in the world. It is also covered in ice for most of the year. The lake flows into the famous Mackenzie River which stretches 4,250 kilometers, making it the second-longest river in North America. The majority of attractions in the territory are natural to the land; however, multiple constructed attractions draw tourists to the area each year. The Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, built in the 1880s, is one of the oldest surviving buildings of type. Inuvik, meaning “Place of Man,” is a modern settlement in the Arctic Circle featuring Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church. The building is shaped after an igloo and is now considered a landmark. June to mid-August is perhaps the best time to visit the area. This time is the warmest season and has the best conditions for boating, hiking, sightseeing, and fishing.
One-third of the Northwest Territories population comprises of American Indians, including the Metis and Dene people. On the other hand, 10% of the population is Inuit— also known as the Arctic people of Canada or Eskimos—who have adapted to the harsh environment over thousands of years. 11,610 people in the Northwest Territories identify with the Protestant, United Church of Canada, Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians religions, while 17,000 believe in the Catholic faith. Both of these groups combined comprise over half the population of the Northwest Territory. The economy of the territory depends highly on the exploitation of natural resources. However, there is not a significant development of mineral resources due to the high production costs and transportation issues. Another contributor to the current economy is the service sector and mining—the dominant industry in the territory. Currently, energy and diamond mining play leading roles in the economy.
The Northwest Territories is located in the northern area of Canada and makes up 13.5% of the land in the country, making it almost as large as Alaska with a total of 442,000 square miles. The large territory is bordered by Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon territory. It is also surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, Beaufort Sea, and polar ice. The Northwest Territory is divided into two geographical regions: the tundra and taiga. The taiga region is a boreal forest belt full of aspen, pine, birch, and poplar trees. The tundra region consists of a colder climate with little vegetation with a rocky arctic landscape.
Other fauna found in the Northwest Territories includes black and white spruce, Jackpine, paper birch, trembling aspen, tamarack, and balsam poplar. The diverse landscape of the Northwest Territories provides the perfect environment for a wide variety of wildlife. Such wildlife consists of barren-ground caribou, beluga whales, white pelicans, moose, Dall’s sheep, ptarmigans, bison, grizzly bears, reindeer, and especially polar bears. The nickname “Land of the Polar Bear” has been given to the area due to the high population of this species.
The Northwest Territories fall under two major climate zones: subarctic and arctic. Average temperatures in the subarctic zone are negative 22 degrees Celcius in the winter and 21 degrees in the summer (-9; 70 degrees Fahrenheit). The arctic zone averages are negative 32 degrees Celsius in the winter and 10 degrees in the summer (-27; 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Northwest Territories is unique for the varying amounts of sunlight it receives throughout the year. Almost every hour of the day is dark during the winter months, while the summer can receive anywhere from 20 to 24 hours of daylight. The longer nights and geographical location have been noted for providing the best aurora borealis in the world. The aurora borealis, or northern lights, are visible for an average of 240 nights each year in the Northwest Territories. The clear skies, low humidity, and location contribute to the popular aurora lights.
The Northwest Territories in Canada were first inhabited by the Inuit, who later became known as the Eskimos. The Inuit arrived in the land over 5,000 years ago, crossing the Bering Strait, a land bridge connecting Asia and North America. The first contact with the land in more recent history is believed to be from the Vikings during the middle ages. However, the first recorded contact with this area wasn’t until 1576, during Martin Frobisher’s voyage search for the Northwest Passage to the Orient. Samuel Hearne was the first European to explore the mainland in the 1770s. The area was a hotspot for explorers, who roamed the land and the arctic to discover the ancient passage. This, in turn, resulted in the mapping of the region. The famous Mackenzie River’s namesake is Alexander MacKenzie of the North West Company, who followed the river which prepared the way for trading posts to be erected along the trail.
The Northwest Territories and the surrounding regions were initially owned by the British Government, who assigned the territories name. In 1870, the Canadian government officially acquired the land of the Northwest Territories, which had a current population of 150,000 Indigenous people already living there. This area was only a portion of the large landmass that was transferred from the British government to Canada. Originally, the land was mainly occupied by the native people who already lived there, until missionaries became active.
In 1920 oil was discovered on the Mackenzie River, which led to the government establishing a territorial administration for the area. The economy shifted during that time from fur trading to mining and has continued to develop with the energy and diamond-mining industries. During World War II, the Northwest Territories became a critical defense to protect Canada and the United States from enemy attacks. The area was used to build military bases and airstrips located along the Arctic Coast. An influx in mining led to the installation of the Canol Pipeline, which served an instrumental role in establishing these bases near the Arctic.
The economy of the Northwest Territories was originally built on fur trading and commercial whaling, which disappeared in the 20th century. From the 1930s, the economy officially shifted from trading to mining. Originally, base and precious metals were mined, such as uranium, zinc, gold, and lead. Eventually, however, the priority was shifted to diamonds. The world’s largest diamond rush was in 1990 after discovering the Kimberlite pipe. Currently, there are four mines in the Northwest Territories, one produces tungsten, and the other three produce diamonds. The mining industry provides jobs for about 3,000 people, 14% of the workforce. The territory’s total population is relatively small, consisting of 45,504 people spread out through the 442,000 square miles of land. The main ethnic groups who inhabit the land today are the English, Canadian, Scottish, Inuit, French, and German.
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