With the prospect of wealth from the fur trade, Europeans penetrated northern Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries, and on their heels came missionaries. Even well into the 1900s the region was largely the fiefdom of competing churches and the Hudson’s Bay Company.
After oil turned up near Tulita in the 1920s, a territorial government was formed. In the ’30s, gold near Yellowknife and radium near Great Bear Lake brought an influx of non-Aboriginals. Federal health, welfare and education programs began in earnest in the 1950s and ’60s. In the 1970s the Dene and Inuvialuit emerged as a political force, demanding a say in – and benefits from – resource extraction on their land.
In 1999 the territory was cut in half, with the eastern and central Arctic becoming Nunavut. The remaining population is evenly divided between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. The latter group, and to a smaller extent the former, have benefited from the recent oil, gas and diamond development, which have thrown the territorial economy into hyperdrive.