Dog sledding in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada.
See Article History Northwest Territories, region of northern and northwestern Canadaencompassing a vast area of forests and tundra. Throughout most of the 20th century the territories constituted more than one-third of the area of Canada, and they reached almost from the eastern to the western extremities of the country, across the roof of the North American continent.
The creation in of the territory of Nunavut out of the eastern portion of the Northwest Territories reduced the area of the latter by more than half.
The Northwest Territories are bordered by Nunavut to the east, the provinces of SaskatchewanAlbertaand British Columbia to the south, and Yukon to the west.
In the north the territories extend far above the Arctic Circle to incorporate numerous islands, the largest of which are Banks and Prince Patrick ; several islands also are divided between the territories and Nunavut, notably Victoria and Melville.
Yellowknife is the capital and largest city. Areasquare miles 1, square km. Land Two main types of landscape blend into one another along the timberline, which runs southeastward from near the Mackenzie River delta on the Arctic Ocean to northwestern Manitoba and is just west of—and roughly parallel to—the border with Nunavut.
Southwest of this line lies the northernmost part of the Canadian boreal forest taigaextending westward to the mountain ranges that border Yukon. North and east of the timberline stretch the relatively barren grounds of the Arctic: Within each of these two regions, the surface vegetation and the animal life it supports vary with soil and climatic conditions.
The Mackenzie Mountains in the west and southwest contain the highest and most-rugged relief in the territories; elevations reach 9, feet 2, metres at an unnamed peak in the southwest near Mount Sir James MacBrien, itself 9, feet 2, metres high.
With only about 70 frost-free days, the growing season for herbaceous plants is short.
While it lasts, however, wildflowers and grasses flourish, and root and cereal crops can be cultivated. Many species of valuable fur-bearing animals are found in the area, notably muskrat and beaver.
Moose, wolves, black and grizzly bears, and mountain sheep and goats also are native. Although the climate of the Mackenzie Lowlands is milder than that of the remainder of the territories, it is still cool enough to limit navigation on the Mackenzie River system to about four months a year and to cause a permanently frozen subsoil, or permafrostexcept in a small area south of Great Slave Lake.
Permafrost creates serious construction problems, especially where the subsoil is an unstable mixture of fine silt and water. North and east of the Mackenzie Lowlands and the tree line, the terrain changes to that of the ancient and rocky Precambrian mass known as the Canadian Shieldthe western edge of which is straddled by the two largest lakes in the territories— Great Bear Lake 12, square miles [31, square km] and Great Slave Lake 11, square miles [28, square km].
The Arctic islands to the north comprise the remnants of mountains formed some to million years ago. Tree growth becomes sparse and stunted and eventually disappears, to be replaced by the light but tough vegetation of the Arctic tundra. In these so-called barren lands the soils, where they exist at all on the heavily glaciated surface, are usually sandy and thin.
Mosses, lichens, and many small, hardy flowering plants survive in these conditions and support a variety of animal life ranging from small burrowing mammals and their predator, the Arctic foxto the large caribou and musk ox.
The musk ox was in danger of becoming extinct until the Canadian government put it under protection in the early 20th century, and several subspecies of caribou are now at risk. Seals, walrus, and polar bears are prevalent along the coasts. Bird life is plentiful in summer, with some species, notably ptarmigans and ravens, remaining all winter.
Mosquitoes and other insects abound during the summers. North and east of the timberline the Arctic climate prevails. Concentrated in the Mackenzie valley area, the Dene belong to several tribes, all part of the Athabaskan language family. Tribal organization was never strong among the Dene, and small bands led by individuals chosen for their skill in the hunt were the effective social unit.
This arrangement was easily molded to the needs of the fur trade when it reached the Mackenzie area in the 18th century.
Thereafter, the exchange of furs for imported goods became the basis of the Dene economy. Government treaties were made with the groups living south of Great Slave Lake in and with those living farther north only in Nunavut's small and sparse population makes it unlikely the territory will be granted provincial status in the foreseeable future, although this may change if the Yukon, which is only marginally more populous, becomes a province.
NunavutEncyclopædia Britannica, Inc. The Arctic Ocean bounds Nunavut to the north, Greenland (separated from it by a series of narrow straits, Baffin Bay, and Davis Strait) lies to the east, and Quebec adjoins it to the southeast across Hudson Strait and the northeastern arm of Hudson Bay. Human Geography Human geography is concerned with the distribution and networks of people and cultures on Earth’s surface.
A human geographer might investigate the local, regional, and global impact of rising economic powers China and India, which represent 37 percent of the world’s people.
The physical geography of Canada is widely varied. Boreal forests prevail throughout the country, ice is prominent in northerly Arctic regions and through the Rocky Mountains, and the relatively flat Canadian Prairies in the southwest facilitate productive agriculture.
Working in Nunavut’s communities, where people strongly identify with the land through ancestral tradition and contemporary use, the links between human and non-human, environment, climate, and land use are tangible and as such, a fertile ground for geography investigations.
Nunavut Weather, climate and geography Weather and climate Best time to visit. Owing to the vast size of the territory, there are great variations in the weather. Winters can be severe - the northernmost community of Grise Fiord has a mean January temperature of ºC (ºF) and a mean July temperature of 10ºC (50ºF).