There has been human habitation in Saskatchewan since approximately 6,000 BCE, when the first indigenous population migrated into the area. The status of Saskatchewan remained largely unchanged until 1670 CE when the land surrounding Hudson's Bay was given to what would become the Hudson's Bay Company. This gift included part of modern-day Saskatchewan, which was included as part of the vaguely-defined Rupert's Land. This lead some twenty years later to the arrival of the first European in Saskatchewan, Henry Kelsey, who travelled up the Saskatchewan River in search of Native groups with whom he and his company could trade. This in turn lead to the establishment of Cumberland House, the first European settlement in Saskatchewan, in 1774. Trade relations between the Native Americans and European traders flourished during this time. In 1803 part of modern-day Saskatchewan was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. However, it and the part of Alberta that had been similarly sold were ceded to the British only fifteen years later. Modern-day Saskatchewan remained in pieces until 1870, when the newly created Dominion of Canada acquired the Hudson Bay Company's holdings and formed them into the massive North-West Territories, which covered most of the Canadian part of the continent. In 1885 the North-West Rebellion, lead by Métis leader Louis Riel, took place in the District of Saskatchewan, and ultimately lead to the creation of the province of Manitoba. During the early 1880s the Canadian Pacific Railway was established, running through Saskatchewan and helping many of the towns there to flourish. Settlers were also offered free land to settle in the region during this time.
Saskatchewan officially became a province of the Dominion of Canada on September 1st, 1905. The population expanded rapidly for the next five years, despite initial difficulties for new settlers, and in 1913 the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and its sister group the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association, organizations that would grow to be a dominant political force on the Canadian Prairies, were formed. During the First World War, Saskatchewan underwent a major economic boom as the prices of wheat soared. Social reform movements likewise saw a major upswing; in 1916 women were given the franchise, and that same year the sale of alcohol was banned. The 1920s briefly saw a surge in Ku Klux Klan activities, but these were eliminated after only two years of political activity following intense political and media opposition, scrutiny and scandal. Following this period of economic prosperity, the Great Depression nearly destroyed the province. The rapidly deteriorating price of wheat, combined with the drought and subsequent windstorms that ravaged the farmlands caused a mass exodus as people fled the farms that were no longer able to support them. Saskatchewan remained in this depressed state for almost the whole of the 1930s, until the Second World War arose and dragged Saskatchewan, along with much of the Western world, back onto its feet.
As the war came to an end, the increasingly prosperous Saskatchewan became the focal point for a number of social reforms. Most prominent was that of Tommy Douglas and the Saskatchewan CCF Party, who spearheaded the campaigns for socialized medicine and old age pensions that eventually became the standard for the entire country after their passage in the early 1960s. In the 1970s the potash industry was nationalized. This was soon followed by the creation of SaskOil, which managed oil and gas exports that had been all but abandoned in the early 1970s. Saskatchewan saw another economic downturn in the early 1980s but has remained fairly stable since then.
Saskatchewan is one of the Prairie provinces in Canada. It covers just over 588,000 square kilometres. It is bordered to the north by the Northwest Territories, to the east by Manitoba, to the south by the states of Montana and North Dakota, and to the west by Alberta. The capital of Saskatchewan is Regina, which is the second-largest city in the province, following Saskatoon.
There are just over 985,000 people in Saskatchewan, most of whom live in the southern half of the province. The most commonly reported ethnic origin as German, with 30% of the population giving that origin. A slightly smaller proportion, some 26%, reported their origin as Canadian. Other notable populations include Scottish, Irish, Ukrainian, French and First Nations. There are also small populations that identify as Norwegian, Polish, Métis, Dutch, Russian and Swedish. Christianity is the dominant religion, with 30% of the population identifying themselves as Roman Catholic, and a further 47% identifying as some other denomination of Christianity. There are also small populations of other religions, including Aboriginal Spiritualism, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. 15.4% of the population claims no religion.
A majority of the population speaks English, with over 85% of the population claiming it as their mother tongue. Native German speakers make up a further 3% of the population. 3.6% of the population claims an Aboriginal language (Algonquian, Athapaskan or Siouan). French and Ukrainian make up a further 2% each. There are a number of other languages identified as a mother tongue by residents, none of which exceed 1% of the total population.