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North-Western Territory: Map

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For other geographical names that use the term "Northwest," see Northwest.




The North-Western Territory at its greatest extent, 1859

The North-Western Territory was a region of British North America until 1870. Named for where it lay in relation to Rupert's Land, the territory at its greatest extent covered what is now Yukonmarker, mainland Northwest Territoriesmarker, northwestern mainland Nunavutmarker, northwestern Saskatchewanmarker, northern Albertamarker and northern British Columbiamarker.

It is obscure when exactly Great Britainmarker first asserted sovereignty over the territory; however, after France accepted British sovereignty over the Hudson Baymarker coast by the Treaty of Utrecht , Great Britain was the only European power with practical access to that part of the continent. The Hudson's Bay Company, despite the royal charter assigning only Rupert's Land to the company, had long used the region as part of its trading area before the governance of the North-Western Territory was explicitly assigned to the company in 1859. The British made virtually no effort to assert sovereignty over the Aboriginal peoples of the area. In accordance with the Royal Proclamation of 1763, large-scale settlement by non-Aboriginal people was prohibited until the lands were surrendered by treaty.

In 1862 during the Cariboo Gold Rush, part of the North-Western Territory became the Stickeen Territory when the Stikine became the focus of a small gold rush and was inundated by American miners and Governor Douglas of the Vancouver Island and British Columbia declared a colony to prevent American claims to the region, the coastal area of which was part of Russian America at the time. The following year, part of the Stikine returned to the North-Western Territory when boundaries were adjusted and the Colony of British Columbia was extended to the 60th Parallel, a measure which also brought into British Columbia its portion of the Peace River Block, which had not been part of the Stikine Territory. In 1868, shortly after Canadian Confederation, the Hudson's Bay Company agreed to surrender its vast territories to the new dominion. However, it was not until July 15, 1870, that the transfer to Canadamarker was made. On that date the North-Western Territory became part of the newly created Northwest Territoriesmarker. In 1880, the British Arctic Territories was claimed by Canadamarker and later formed the Northwest Territoriesmarker and Nunavutmarker. In 1898 the Yukon Territorymarker was split off from the areas west of the Mackenzie Mountainsmarker during the Klondike Gold Rush, again as with the Stickeen Territory to prevent efforts at American takeover and also to enable easier governance.

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