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The Northwest Territories

Flag of the Northwest TerritoriesLocated in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south. Yellowknife is its capital. See our map for details.

Nature is in balance here. You can view rare wildlife species, from white wolves to white whales, and see herds of bisons, prowling bears, moose and caribou by the thousands.

This is the land where the world's best northern lights dance during the dark winter months and where the sun never sets during the summer.

Here are some quick facts.

  • Total land area – 1,346,106 km²
  • Population – 43,529
  • Coastline – Approximate 8,000 km (No exact number available, Northwest Territories and Nunavut together is 24,131km)
  • Capital – Yellowknife
  • Language – 11 Languages (see below)

Northern Lights in Northwest TerritoriesIf you compare the size of Northwest Territories with the country of Sweden, it is 3 times larger then Sweden, 34 times larger then Switzerland, 5.7 times larger then Great Britain, and twice the size of the State of Texas in USA.

Not very many people live in the Northwest Territories. Sweden has 214 times more people, Switzerland 179 times more, Great Britain 1,420 times more, and Texas 577 times more people.

Northwest Territories has 0.037 people per km², Sweden 21/km², Switzerland 188/km², Great Britain 383/km², and Texas 37/km².

Nortwest Territories History

History Of the Northwest Territories is almost as complicated as their language laws. The name was originally applied to the territory acquired in 1870 from the Hudson's Bay Company and Great Britain.

Back then Canada consisted of British Columbia to the west and Rupert's Land to the east and part of the USA and last but not least North-Western Territory as it was referred to - which lay northwest of central Canada, hence Northwest Territories. In 1880 Great Britain also transferred to Canada the arctic islands, north of the mainland, thereby adding to the size of the territories.

Float Plane at NightLarge portions of Northwest Territories were subsequently removed to create the provinces of Manitoba in 1870, Saskatchewan was created in 1905 and Alberta 1905 as well. The Yukon Territory was created in 1898 and Nunavut as recent as 1999.


The Northwest Territories' Official Languages Act recognizes the following eleven official languages, which are more than in any other political division in the Americas:

•Chipewyan   •Cree   •English   •Gwich'in   •Inuinnaqtun   •Inukitut   •North Slavey

•South Slavey   •French   •Inuvialuktun   •Tłįchq Yatiì  

French was made an official language in 1877 by the appointed government at that time. The members voted on more than one occasion to nullify and make English the only language. After some conflict with Ottawa and a decisive vote on the 19th of January 1892, the assembly members voted for an English only territory.

In the early 1980's, the federal government pressured the government of the Northwest Territories to reintroduce French as an official language. Some Native members walked out of the assembly, protesting that they were not permitted to speak their own language. The executive council appointed a special committee to study the matter, which decided that if French was to be an official language, then the other languages in the territories must also be allowed.

KayakersThe residents of the Northwest Territories have a right to use any of the above languages in a territorial court and in debates and proceedings of the legislature. However, laws are legally binding only in their French and English versions, and the Northwest Territories government only publishes laws and other documents in the territory's other official languages when the legislature asks it to. Furthermore, access to services in any language is limited to institutions and circumstances

Northwest Territories Tourist Information

Northwest Territories offer one of the best arctic wilderness experiences in Canada. The Northwest Territories Tourism Website sums it all up in three paragraphs:

Aurora viewing memories are top priority for visitors in autumn and winter in the Northwest Territories. Our tour specialists offer an exciting selection of Aurora experiences. Many will even provide winter gear to ensure your enjoyment.

Take a tour on a dogsled, with the Aurora lighting your snowy path. Try out a viewing deck equipped with individually heated seats that warm you while you marvel at the sparkling lights overhead. Tour by snowmobile, drive out on Great Slave Lake, or fly out to a cozy lodge.

Imagine hiking in a National Park at the top of the world, where caribou spend the summer. Canoe a wild northern river few have ever seen. Hop on a bush plane and go flightseeing over the Nahanni, the Mackenzie Delta, or Great Slave Lake's East Arm. Or relax aboard a jet boat, and travel a northern river to a secluded mountain lodge.

As you can see there is much to do in this remote part of Canada. Check out the Northwest Territories website for more travel ideas

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