Northwest Territories | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories lie northwest of central Canada, bordered to the east by Nunavut, to the west by the Yukon and to the south by the northeastern corner of British Columbia, as well as the entire northern borders of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

  1. July 31, 1868

    Prince Rupert

    Government and Politics 

    Rupert's Land Act

    The Rupert's Land Act was passed, allowing the Crown to declare Rupert's Land part of the Dominion of Canada.

  2. December 01, 1869

    Constitutional Act, 1791

    Government and Politics 

    HBC Surrenders Rupert's Land

    The Hudson's Bay Company surrendered Rupert's Land to the Canadian government.

  3. July 15, 1870

    Prince Rupert

    Government and Politics 

    Transfer of Rupert's Land

    The British Crown officially transferred Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory to Canada. These lands comprise present-day Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, southern Nunavut, and northern parts of Ontario and Québec.

  4. September 01, 1880

    Claiming the Archipelago, 1909

    Government and Politics 

    Arctic Sovereignty

    British sovereignty over the Arctic Islands passed to Canada.

  5. January 01, 1885

    Government and Politics 

    Northwest Territories Women Disenfranchised Municipally

    Women in the Northwest Territories (including what later became Alberta and Saskatchewan) were barred from voting in municipal elections or holding municipal office, but were allowed to vote for, and become, school trustees.

  6. March 30, 1885



    Cree Attack Battleford

    Two hundred Cree under Poundmaker ransacked Battleford, NWT, and laid siege to the fort.

  7. April 24, 1885

    Gabriel Dumont, resistance fighter


    Battle of Fish Creek

    General Middleton engaged Gabriel Dumont's Métis at Fish Creek, NWT; the battle was a stalemate.

  8. May 21, 1887


    Birth of James Gladstone

    James Gladstone, Canada's first Indigenous senator, was born at Mountain Hill, NWT.

  9. July 14, 1892


    Birth of Jack Sissons

    Judge Jack Sissons was born at Orillia, Ontario. As the first judge of the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories, Sissons took "justice to every man's door" by aircraft and dogsled.

  10. January 01, 1895

    Government and Politics 

    Yukon is Named one of Four NWT Districts

    Canada named Yukon one of four districts within the Northwest Territories, along with Mackenzie, Franklin and Ungava. The capital of the territory was in Regina, but Yukon people sought more control over their affairs.

  11. June 24, 1897

    Frederick W.G. Haultain, lawyer,  politician

    Government and Politics 

    Cabinet Government in NWT

    Full Cabinet government was established in the North-West Territories, and F.W. Haultain formed its first government.

  12. May 06, 1898

    People  Resources and Environment 

    Yukon Field Force

    The Yukon Field Force, consisting of 203 volunteers, left Vancouver for Dawson to maintain order during the Klondike Gold Rush.

  13. June 13, 1898

    Yukon Legislature Chamber

    Government and Politics 

    Yukon Becomes Separate Territory

    By Act of Parliament the Yukon became a separate territory with a commissioner and partly elected council.

  14. March 16, 1918

    Wilberforce Falls

    Government and Politics 

    NWT Divided Into Districts

    The Northwest Territories were divided into the present Districts of Keewatin, Mackenzie, and Franklin, and brought into the Dominion of Canada; effective 1 January 1920.

  15. June 27, 1921

    Mackenzie River

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Indigenous People Cede Mackenzie

    Slave, Dogrib, Hare, Loucheux and other bands ceded the Mackenzie River region of the Northwest Territories to the federal government.

  16. January 01, 1922

    Wood Buffalo National Park

    Resources and Environment 

    Wood Buffalo National Park Established

    Wood Buffalo National Park was established to protect the last herd of wood bison. Canada's largest national park straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border. It was declared a world heritage site in 1983.

  17. November 12, 1925

    Indigenous Peoples  Sports and Culture 

    Birth of Agnes Nanogak

    Graphic artist Agnes Nanogak, whose narrative prints and drawings evoke a rich variety of stories reflecting the Mackenzie Delta/Copper Eskimo culture, was born on Baillie Island, NWT.

  18. December 28, 1929

    Communication and Transportation 

    Airmail Service to the Arctic

    Pilot Wilfrid May flew the first official airmail to Canada’s Arctic, delivering it to Aklavik, NWT. The new airmail service route covered over 2,500 kilometers.

  19. May 16, 1930


    Resources and Environment 

    LaBine Finds Uranium

    Prospector Gilbert LaBine discovered pitchblende, the chief source of uranium and radium, at Great Bear Lake, NWT.

  20. January 01, 1940

    Government and Politics 

    Municipal Government in NWT

    The first municipal government in the Northwest Territories was inaugurated in Yellowknife.

  21. October 17, 1948

    Sports and Culture 

    Birth of Margot Kidder

    Movie actor Margot Kidder, who achieved widespread recognition as reporter Lois Lane in the four Superman movies, was born at Yellowknife, NT.

  22. March 25, 1951

    Indigenous Peoples  People 

    Birth of Ethel Blondin-Andrews

    Ethel Blondin-Andrews, first Indigenous woman elected to Parliament, was born at Fort Norman, NT.

  23. June 12, 1951

    Government and Politics  People 

    Northwest Territories Women Get Vote

    Women in the Northwest Territories won the right to vote and stand for office.

  24. November 18, 1964

    Communication and Transportation  Resources and Environment 

    Lead-zinc Shipped from NWT

    The first shipment of lead-zinc ore left Pine Point, NWT, destined for smelters in Trail and Kimberley, BC, over the recently completed Great Slave Lake Railway.

  25. March 11, 1969

    Communication and Transportation 

    Last RCMP Dog Sled Patrol

    The last RCMP dog sled patrol, which mostly carried mail and medical supplies across the Yukon and Northwest Territories, set out on a final 800 km round trip from Old Crow, YT. Constables Warren Townsend and Peter Benjamin made the trip in 26 days with two dog teams. The RCMP had recently announced that its last dog sled teams would be replaced with snowmobiles and aircraft.

  26. August 24, 1969

    Communication and Transportation 

    Manhattan in the Canadian Arctic

    The US oil tanker Manhattan left Chester, Penn, on a trial voyage through the Northwest Passage. With the assistance of the Canadian icebreaker CCGS John A. Macdonald, the Manhattan reached Sachs Harbour, NWT, on September 15.

  27. March 09, 1970

    Sports and Culture 

    First Arctic Winter Games

    Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opened the first Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, NWT.

  28. June 23, 1970

    Government and Politics 

    100th Anniversary of the Northwest Territories

    The Queen visited remote communities along the Arctic Circle with Philip and her two eldest children, Charles and Anne. This high-profile tour officially marked the 100th anniversary of the Northwest Territories. But it also provided the Queen with the opportunity to engage with the Inuit and to affirm Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic through her presence in the region.

  29. December 21, 1970

    Government and Politics  People 

    First Woman Elected to the Northwest Territories Council

    Lena Pedersen became the first woman elected to the Northwest Territories Council.

  30. January 20, 1971

    Communication and Transportation 

    Radio Tuktoyaktuk Goes On Air

    Radio Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories) began broadcasting, in both English and Inuktitut, bringing radio service to approximately 650 residents of the Mackenzie River Delta and introducing Indigenous-language broadcasting to Canada.

  31. December 09, 1972


    Pilot Hartwell Found Alive

    Amazingly, bush pilot Martin Hartwell was found alive, a month after his plane crashed in the Northwest Territories. He had survived that long (with two broken ankles and in harsh winter temperatures) thanks to the efforts of the one surviving passenger, a 14-year-old boy named David Kootook, who lived for several weeks after the crash but died before Hartwell’s rescue.

  32. March 18, 1973

     K'atlodeeche/Katl'odeeche First Nation's Church.

    Indigenous Peoples 

    First Reserve in NWT

    The first First Nations reserve in the Northwest Territories was created at Hay River.

  33. September 07, 1973

    Indigenous Peoples 

    NWT Court Allows Land Claim

    The Northwest Territories Supreme Court allowed the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT to file a land claim for one-third of the NWT.

  34. February 28, 1975

    Yellowknife in Winter

    Government and Politics 

    NWT Gets Second Seat

    Legislation was passed granting the Northwest Territories a second seat in the House of Commons.

  35. January 01, 1976

    Government and Politics 

    Nunatsiaq Riding Created

    A federal riding was created in the Northwest Territories. Called Nunatsiaq, it represented territory that now comprises Nunavut.

  36. January 01, 1976

    Nahanni River

    Resources and Environment 

    Nahanni National Park Reserve Established

    Nahanni National Park Reserve was established. The park is a wilderness of rugged mountains, wild rivers and luxurious hot springs stretched along the South Nahanni River in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories. The park was recognized as a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1978.

  37. January 01, 1976

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Nunavut Land Claims Presented to Government

    The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada submitted a formal land claims proposal to the Government of Canada.

  38. August 14, 1978

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Dene Nation

    The Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories became the Dene Nation during the 8th Dene National Assembly held in Fort Norman, NT.

  39. January 01, 1982

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Tungavik Federation of Nunavut Established

    The Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) was established in order to negotiate a land claims agreement with the Government of Canada.

  40. April 14, 1982

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Northwest Territories Plebiscite

    The majority of voters (56 per cent) chose to divide the Northwest Territories in two in a territorial plebiscite. The division would create a mainly Inuit eastern territory. Over 80 per cent of the territory’s Inuit voted, more than 80 per cent of whom voted in favour of the creation of Nunavut. The results of the plebiscite were not binding federally.

  41. June 05, 1984

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Inuvialuit Final Agreement

    After ten years of negotiation, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) was settled in Northwest Territories. The IFA was Canada’s second finalized comprehensive land claim, and the first in the extreme North. The Inuvialuit exchanged exclusive usage of ancestral lands for guaranteed rights over land, wildlife protocols and funds.

  42. January 01, 1987


    Government and Politics 

    Iqaluit Named

    The town of Frobisher Bay, NWT, changed its name to Iqaluit.

  43. September 20, 1987


    Pope Visits Fort Simpson

    Pope John Paul II visited Fort Simpson, NWT.

  44. November 14, 1991

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Cournoyea Elected Premier of NWT

    Nellie J. Cournoyea, of Inupiaq heritage, was elected premier of the Northwest Territories, making her the first Indigenous woman to hold the position of government leader.

  45. April 22, 1992

    Indigenous Peoples 

    Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement

    The Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Canadian and the Northwest Territories governments signed the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. The Agreement involved lands in the Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories and in Yukon. Special hunting rights were also extended, permitting the harvest of fur-bearing animals throughout the settlement area.

  46. May 04, 1992

    Government and Politics 

    Nunavut Boundary Plebiscite

    A plebiscite was held in order to confirm the boundary between the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Fifty-four per cent voted in favour of the proposed boundaries.

  47. November 03, 1992

    Indigenous Peoples 

    ​Inuit Accept the Terms of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement

    A majority of Inuit beneficiaries voted to accept the terms of the proposed Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. In tandem with the Nunavut Act, the land claims agreement led to the creation of the territory of Nunavut.

  48. November 12, 1992

    Government and Politics 

    Inuit Endorse Nunavut

    The Inuit endorsed the creation of Nunavut, a semi-autonomous territory, in a referendum.

  49. June 10, 1993

    Government and Politics  Indigenous Peoples 

    Nunavut Act Receives Royal Assent

    The Nunavut Act, which established the new territory and its government, received royal assent in Parliament. The territory's Inuit population became beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Settlement Agreement, which also received royal assent on this day. Nunavut officially became Canada’s third territory on 1 April 1999.

  50. September 06, 1996

    Government and Politics 

    Residents Keep NWT Name

    Residents of the Northwest Territories voted to keep that name for the western part of territory after the eastern part became the territory of Nunavut in 1999.

  51. January 01, 1998

    Resources and Environment 

    Tuktut Nogait National Park Established

    Tuktut Nogait National Park was created through the efforts of the Inuit of Paulatuk, NWT. They wanted a national park to help protect the calving grounds of the Bluenose herd of barren-ground caribou, a game animal essential to their way of life.

  52. April 01, 1999

    Nunavut Flag

    Government and Politics 

    Nunavut Declared

    The new territory of Nunavut, covering some 2 million sqare kilometers of the eastern Arctic, was declared as part of Canada's first territorial changes since Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949.

  53. May 11, 1999

    Resources and Environment 

    Chevron Announces Gas Find

    Chevron Canada of Calgary announced that explorers had found one of the largest natural gas deposits in Canada near the town of Fort Liard, NWT.