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The Western Interior of Canada

The Western Interior of Canada: A Record of Geographical Discovery, 1612-1917

Copyright Date: 1964
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  • Book Info
    The Western Interior of Canada
    Book Description:

    This volume consists of excerpts from journals, diaries and reports of geographical explorations into the western interior of Canada from the first known journeys of Jens Munck and Luke Foxe up to the scientific surveys undertaken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9153-0
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    The exploration of the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta neither began nor ended with the famous journeys of Sir Thomas Button, Henry Kelsey, La Vérendrye. Anthony Henday, or Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Natives were familiar with the country before these men of European origin arrived , but we know their impressions of the land only at second hand. But after these famous explorers had charted the way anew, information about these regions continued to accumulate as scientific explorers crossed and recrossed the land, integrating the data they collected into meaningful geographical interpretations of the country.

    Our schools, universities, and indeed...


    • [BOOK ONE: Introduction]
      (pp. 9-10)

      The first explorers of the Western Interior of Canada were men completely unknown to us. We do not even know when they came or what tracks they followed. Artifacts found in fallowed fields, on alluvial terraces within river valleys, or along the paths that lead from lake to lake show that these lands were inhabited for many years before the European explorers arrived. The natives, mostly Indians but also a few Eskimos, knew the land intimately. and no European travelling in this country was ever the first person to see any part of it. The natives showed the Europeans which...

    • I On the Western Coast of Hudson Bay, 1612-1631
      (pp. 11-15)

      Europeans approached the Western Interior of Canada by four routes, entering the region through: Hudson Bay; the St. Lawrence–Great Lakes–Lake of the Woods system of rivers and lakes; the Upper Mississippi Valley–Red River Lowland; and the Columbia River or the Strait of Georgia and the passes through the Western Cordillera. The earliest documented explorations by Europeans were carried out in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, first from Hudson Bay and the n later by using the St. Lawrence–Great Lakes–Lake of the Woods route. The other two routes were used only in the nineteenth century. and...

    • II Explorations Inland, 1683-1787
      (pp. 16-65)

      The first journeys into the interior were not made by explorers in search of a route across North America but by men pursuing the fur trade. In 1648 and 1649 the Iroquois nearly annihilated the Huron Indians of present-day Southern Ontario, who had served as middlemen between the French traders of the St. Lawrence and the Indian trappers of the Upper Great Lakes country. Thus in the 1650s the French traders themselves were forced to travel to the Lake Superior basin, via the Ottawa River and Lake Huron, to re-establish contacts with the fur-supplying Indians.

      Two of the traders in...

    • III An Emerging Geographical Pattern, 1784-1814
      (pp. 65-111)

      There was a steady increase in the number of traders in the Western Interior of Canada after the Seven Years’ War, and bitter rivalries between fur companies soon developed as competition intensified. Trading areas were constantly expanded, in order to collect more and more furs. For trade to be carried on efficiently, it soon became imperative that accurate maps be drawn, showing routes and the location of posts. But untrained traders could not be expected to produce reliable maps of the interior, even if instruments were available. As early as 1744 the Hudson’s Bay Company made specific attempts to promote...

    • IV The Fur Trader Turns Geologist, 1812-24
      (pp. 111-118)

      The first quarter of the nineteenth century marks the transition between the men who had learned about the topography of Western Interior Canada while searching for furs or for routes, and the men who would shortly study the geography of the West for its own sake in the interest of acquiring a scientific knowledge of the area. But one can push this distinction between the fur trader and the scientific enquirer too far. Some of the trallers had a scholarly attitude as well. The enquiring, objective, exact spirit of science was quite apparent in David Thompson’s exploring zeal, and in...


    • [BOOK TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 119-122)

      Before 1819 geographical observations in the Western Interrior of Canada had largely been confined to the dimensions of streams, the lengths of rapids, the shapes of lakes, references to hills and plains, and descriptions of trees and wildlife. And even these observations had not been made systematically. Very few references had been made to the landforms and rocks of the West. La Vérendrye had mentioned the gun flint formation near Lake of the Woods, Edward Umfreville the coal in the Sas katchewan country, Alexander Mackenzie had observed the line of junction between limestone and granite in the interior and described...

    • V Scientific Travellers and Observers, 1819-55
      (pp. 122-144)

      Beginning in .18 19 valuable contributions to our knowledge of the Canadian West were made by observers educated in the sciences of the day, who were attached to the exploring expeditions that began to enter Western Interior Canada. Some of these naturalists were members of Brhish expeditions on their way to explore the Arctic areas of North America, and others were with American expeditions which in the course of investigating the north central United States crossed into British North America

      Dr. John Richardson, naturalist with Captain John Franklin's two land expeditions of 1819-22 and 1825-27. and leader of an expedition...

    • VI Geographical Expeditions Study the West, 1853-81
      (pp. 144-260)

      In the 1850’s the British government had to make a decision on how Rupert’s Land should be administered, Should it be transferred to Canada, which was becoming more and more conscious of the value of the lands to the northwest of the Great Lakes? Should it be established as another Crown Colony? Or should it be left to the Hudson’s Bay Company, as before? Reliable data on the agricultural potential of the area, and on the ease of establishing railroad connections with it were required before a final decision could be made. To collect as much as possible of the...

    • VII Regional Reconnaissance and Exploratory Surveys, 1881-1917
      (pp. 261-287)

      In the 1800’s a new phase in the exploration of the southern part of Western Interior Canada began with the introduction of intensive regional surveys by the Geological Survey of Canada. These were still not detailed investigations, because the areas studied were large (perhaps 150 x 220 miles) and the field work on each area was limited to only two or three seasons. The first regional studies were made in the southwestern plains. The Survey had hoped to prepare a series of reports covering the entire Canadian West but this proved impossible, and only four reports were issued, describing the...

    (pp. 288-299)
    (pp. 300-300)
  8. Index
    (pp. 301-304)
  9. Maps
    (pp. 305-308)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-312)