Canadian History/Prairie Provinces

The first province of the prairies was Manitoba. It was created under the Manitoba act which made it a bilingual place where French and English were accepted as official languages. The act created two official education systems: Roman Catholic and Protestant. Most of Manitoba was populated by the Metis, who were discriminated by the government before Manitoba became a province. Many Metis were forced to sell their land or face imprisonment.



At one time, bison were plentiful in the prairies (prior to 1874-1875). The impact the animal had on the prairies was enormous. Bison fueled the economy because their hides created clothing but most importantly, bison meat was made into pemmican which was not only traded with the Hudson's Bay Company but supplied each place with enough food for the entire year. From bison fueling the economy, bison also became the main industry in the prairies. Bison had a strong impact on the prairies, which was apparent once the bison started to become extinct in the area.



The main type of precipitation the prairie receives is known as convectional precipitation. Convectional precipitation is caused by convection currents in the atmosphere. When the air heats during the day, it expands and rises. It then meets cool air, which also warms, rises, and cools, creating a cloud of rain or hail, which falls back to Earth. Even though the dry prairies can use as much precipitation it can get, convectional precipitation is often unreliable because it's heavy and can damage crops and soil.

The southeast part of the prairies, near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, is very dry. The driest area is known as the "Palliser Triangle," named after Captain Palliser, who mapped British territory from Lake Superior to the Oregon Valley in an 1857-1860 expedition. The prairie in the northwest is moist enough to support ranching and agriculture, but never moist enough to support trees.

In Canada, the provinces of: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are commonly referred to as the prairies. The land itself is filled with meadows and very few trees, but contains the natural vegetation of grasses and shrubs. The prairies are the agricultural centre of Canada because of their very fertile soil, which has produced such goods as canola and wheat.



During 1870, Canada was looking for more land for European settlement and for Canadians to live on. The North-West Territories had no clearly defined border lines but the area was currently controlled by the Native people. The first negotiations for land were between W. Simpson, Indian Commissioner in the Department of Indian Affairs, and the Cree and Saulteaux. The first of many treaties to come was signed on August 3, 1874 which left the Native people with less than 60 percent of the land they originally had. Over the following years more treaties were to be signed. Native people were in the need for jobs after the treaty signings and depletion of the buffalo. The Metis were forced to learn to farm as a means of survival. Farming was aided by the government per the conditions of the treaties.



Ground squirrels, gophers, and prairie dogs are plentiful in this region. Hawks, owls, and badgers are the predators of the gophers. Deer and antelope have replaced the bison as the largest animals in this biome. Wild fowl are found in the region's many sloughs.

The natural vegetation of the grasslands includes several types of short grasses--sagebrush and cactus in the south, and some areas of long grasses. Agriculture has completely destroyed some of the indigenous grasses. Human activity has also led to wind erosion, although there is less wind erosion on the prairie today than during the 1930s. At that time, much of the topsoil of the region was blown away after years of prolonged drought.The soil of this region are brown in colour and have a high mineral content. Depending on the length of grasses, and so the amount of humus they would provide over many years, the soils will vary from light to dark brown. The dark brown soil type is known as chernozem and is ideal for growing wheat and other grain crops.



Horizons: Canada Moves West by Prentice Hall, copyright 1999 Pearson Education Canada Inc. : History of Settlement in the Canadian Prairies