New Capital for N.W.T.

English: From
From, circa 1898. Category:Regina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the federal government bought the Hudson’s Bay Company territory in 1869, Manitoba was made a province almost immediately.  What are now the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were called the Northwest Territories, with Battleford as the capital.  In 1882, the C.P.R. engineers decided that the transcontinental line should be built two hundred miles south of Battleford and the capital was shifted to Pile O’ Bones on March 27, 1883.

Before 1882, there was almost nothing at Pile O’ Bones.  It had been a camping place for buffalo hunters and got its name from the buffalo carcasses left there.  The fact that the new capital was going to be there brought droves of settlers.  Of course a more dignified name had to be found.

The popular choice was Victoria but that had already been chosen for the capital of British Columbia.  After a great deal of discussion the problem was referred to the Governor-General, the Marquis of Lorne.  His wife, Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, came up with the happy answer.  If the people of the Northwest Territories wanted the capital to be called after the Queen, why  not use the Latin word for “queen” – Regina?

In 1905, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were separated from the Northwest Territories.  Regina remained the  capital of Saskatchewan, while Edmonton was chosen as the capital of Alberta.

The entire area had to overcome the effects of bad publicity.  Even as late as 1865, Sir John A. Macdonald believed that it was of “no present value to Canada.”  The British government then sent out a special expedition  under Captain John Palliser.  After studying conditions as far west as the Rockies for two years, the  Palliser expedition marked out a triangular area as unfit for settlers.  It included a great deal of what is now southern Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Fortunately there were some who disagreed with these findings, among them Dominion Botanist Dr. John Macoun, and settlers flocked into the country by rail.

For more about Regina, you can read the page at Wikipedia; another page for further reading is Regina Public Library; Tourism Saskatchewan has an interesting page – “From Pile o’ Bones to bustling urban centre.” These are all good places to start.


  1. Sounds like Canada’s trans-continental railroad had a similar effect of promoting settlers along the path, as did our USA version a couple of decades earlier. When I wrote about this last year, I learned that the federal government grant several miles of territory on either side of the railroad right of way to the builders. They sold the land for towns and farms, using the money to pay for the railroad (as well as to make them Railroad Barons).


  2. Regina is a fitting name. It’s another place that I want to visit since my sister’s hubby is from there. Tourism web page did a great job in promoting “Pile of Bones”.


  3. tk —
    notice this Canadian at ourherstory today?
    1922 Simma Holt .:. author, memoirist, journalist, former politician []


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