Meaning “swift flowing river” in the language of the Cree people, “Saskatchewan” is one of Canada’s most beautiful and intriguing provinces.
Saskatchewan is represented by it’s provincial flower, the red wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum), a flower currently on the endangered species list in a number of American states including New Mexico, Ohio and Arizona. Perhaps because of its beauty, perhaps due to its ability to survive extreme weather conditions, the red wood lily is found on the Saskatchewan flag and is a direct representation of the character of the province’s inhabitants.
The capital city of Saskatchewan is Regina, a Roman Catholic cathedral city second only to Saskatoon in size and named after Queen Victoria (Regina Victoria). It acts as a cultural and commercial hub for the adjacent American states of North Dakota and Montana and can therefore boast with world class theatres, concerts and numerous bars and restaurants.
Saskatchewan shares a common history, if only marginally different, with its immediate neighbor, Alberta. The first European to have ever encountered the native inhabitants of Saskatchewan was Henry Kelsey of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1690. As with many of his trading counterparts, Kelsey sought to trade metal, guns and blankets for the sought-after fur the natives kept. It was, however, only in 1774 that Samuel Hearne arrived in the area to build a Hudson’s Bay trading post at Cumberland House for the purposes of trading with the natives. The fur trade was however short-lived as it began to decline in the 1850s.
In the years to follow the Plains Indians were placed on reservations and land became harder to find. Those most affected were the Métis (a mix between the natives and Europeans), who became dissatisfied at the scarcity of available land for their families and children. Under the leadership of Louis Riel, the Métis united to seek self-government. Requests for their own land were ignored and subsequently, in 1885, an uprising called the Northwest Rebellion ensued.
Saskatchewan officially became a province in 1905 and suffered much the same fate for the following decades as its neighbors. The Great Depression set in during the 1930s, causing many farmers to declare bankruptcy, resulting in a steep population decline. Only close to the end of the 2nd world war did Saskatchewan recover as oil and mining became its main industries.
Nowadays Saskatchewan is associated with rolling plains, although only a quarter of it can be considered ‘true prairie’ as a result of settlement. Rolling hills and valleys make up most of the geography as well as a vast amount of rivers and lakes – more than 100,000 in the north of Saskatchewan in the Canadian Shield. Its largest lakes include Lake Athabasca, Reindeer Lake, Wollaston Lake and Cree Lake.
Saskatchewan is also one of the only two provinces in Canada that have artificial borders. Its regions can mainly be divided into two: the Canadian Shield and the interior plains. Among its natural wonders located in the Canadian Shield are the Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes which are the largest north of 58°. These sand dunes in the North also have their southern counterparts in the form of the Great Sand Hills that cover more than 300 sq. km.