The NWT Centennial

On June 23rd, 1870, an Imperial Order-in-Council transferred areas of North America under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company to the new Dominion of Canada. This vast territory was renamed “The North-West Territories.” It included present-day Yukon Territory, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of present-day Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. The spelling of the name changed to Northwest Territories with the 1906 passing of the “Northwest Territories Act.”

Many special events celebrated the 100th anniversary of the creation of the NWT in 1970. These included a Royal Tour by Queen Elizabeth II, a re-creation of the famous 800 km Fort Macpherson to Dawson City RCMP Dog Patrol, an archaeological excavation of Old Fort Providence, special dogsled mail runs, a Mackenzie River canoe race from Fort Providence to Inuvik, the first Arctic Winter Games, the Top-of-the-World Ski meet, and the creation of the distinctive polar bear license plate.

Georgina Blondin spoke for many people when she questioned Stuart Hodgson on the significance of the Centenary to Indigenous people. “Why is 1970 significant? One hundred years isn’t much when we’ve been here for thousands of years.” Hodgson’s reply firmly places the NWT as a prominent feature of the Canadian nation “It’s a hundred years since the British fur traders, the Hudson’s Bay Company, gave up governing Rupert’s Land. It’s also the year when all the federal programmes will have been transferred to us (the NWT government) and the year the North makes its debut as an entity to be taken seriously by the rest of the country.”  Hodgson was prepared to wave the cost as long as citizens of the Northwest Territories saw the opportunity to come together and unite the North in celebration.