In 1690, Henry Kelsey became the first European to enter Saskatchewan when he traveled up the Saskatchewan River to pursue fur trade with the native Athabaskan, Algonquian, Atsina, Cree, Saulteaux and Sioux peoples.
Then, in 1774, the first permanent European settlement was established at Cumberland House by the fabled Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). This post helped strengthen HBC's stranglehold on the fur trade market in North America.
In 1803, France transferred part of what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. However, the HBC still staked claim to most of present day Saskatchewan. In 1870, Canada acquired the HBC's lands taking control of the vast territory between British Columbia and Manitoba.
In 1874, the "March West" of the federal government's new North-West Mounted Police proved to be crucial in the history of what was to become Western Canada. Despite the huge area to cover (from Manitoba to Alberta), poor equipment, and lack of provisions, the men endured and established a Canadian presence in the new territory.
Though some historians have argued that failure by the Mounted Police on this expedition would have merely delayed Canada's western expansion, others have theorized that the United States would have been tempted to seize control of this void. Also, if the expedition had failed, the Canadian Pacific Railway would likely have been forced to seek a more northerly route, impeding the growth of cities like Regina and Moose Jaw.
In 1883, the Métis people (mixed indigenous and French heritage) of Saskatchewan united under the leadership of Louis Riel and began to seek self-government. They were unhappy with the difficulty they faced when trying to settle down to farm and wanted their own land.
In 1885, after the Canadian government refused to hear their grievances, the Métis staged the North-West Rebellion. However,they were quickly defeated by Canadian militia brought to the area by the new Canadian Pacific Railway.
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Between 1895 and 1914, much of the prairie land was turned into farm land. The Saskatchewan population grew with more settlers seeking agricultural prosperity, and provincehood came about on September 1, 1905. Despite the harsh frontier life, distance from towns, and arduous labor, Saskatchewan developed a thriving farming based society in the early 1900s.
Fortunes changed in the 1930s when severe drought wrought disaster on agriculture. Farming came to a standstill and the population fell by 26,000 from 1931 to 1941.
This western province has since recovered and now boasts a diversified economy of finance, insurance, mining, and petroleum. Agriculture continues to play a major role in the province's economy, responsible for 45% of Canada's grain.
The province is named for the Saskatchewan River, from the Cree language meaning "swift flowing river." Over the centuries the river has been the lifeblood for the people of this land. It provided food and transportation for the original indigenous peoples and later drove the thriving fur trade and supplied irrigation to support Saskatchewan's agriculture. The river is still important today as a major supplier of hydroelectricity and tourism revenue.
Though Saskatchewan farmlands are well known as Canada's breadbasket, it actually has a very diverse landscape catering to all types of outdoors enthusiasts. From the wildly scenic badlands in the south to the thick boreal forests and lake regions of the north, Saskatchewan offers excellent hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and mountain biking for a western Canada vacation.
The province's capital of Regina and largest city Saskatoon are bustling four seasons destinations that offer a wide variety of activities. The Regina Symphony Orchestra is Canada's oldest. Saskatoon experiences more hours of sunshine annually than any other major Canadian city.