when Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory were joined, they became the North-West Territories, describes their geographic location in Canada
Predominantly English (~ 78%). Dogrib or Tłı̨chǫ is the most prevalent indigenous language (~ 4%). Other official languages are: Chipewyan, Cree, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, and South Slavey. Mostly spoken by small portions of the population.
Capital & Largest City
Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic region. Mostly located on the mainland with some territory on large islands in the Arctic Archipelago. Has coastline on the Arctic Ocean.
Parts of Canada’s taiga (mostly plains and shield forests), Taiga Cordillera mountains, and Arctic tundra. Major lakes include Great Slave Lake (deepest in North America) and Great Bear Lake (largest lake fully within Canada).
from earlier name Terra Nova, “new land” in Portuguese and Latin, later adapted into English as Newfoundland
for Portuguese sailor, João Fernandes Lavrador
Predominantly English (~ 97%). Local variety is known as Newfoundland English.
Capital & Largest City
Eastern Canada (easternmost province) and part of the Atlantic region. Mostly located on the island of Newfoundland and the mainland section called Labrador, with many smaller islands.
Parts of Canada’s Eastern boreal shield forests (especially on Newfoundland), taiga forests (especially in Labrador), and Arctic Cordillera mountains. The Smallwood Reservoir system in Labrador is the largest body of water.
for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, a daughter of British Queen Victoria
Predominantly English (c. 92%)
Borders the United States to the south
Part of Canada’s boreal forests and taiga, prairies, western mountains and forests (especially the Rockies), aspen parklands, and some dry steppe and highlands (especially around the badlands). Has part of large Lake Athabasca.
**A Special Thanks: this post was made possible by the amazing and generous Creative Commons and Free Stock photographers out there. Thank you for making your work and the amazing places you capture accessible to the rest of the world!
There’s an ongoing question that pokes at the side of so many people in this world. Should I take my shower before or after work? Woah, not that! You dirty minds. While either way you choose has its benefits, I was thinking about the continents. Most people agree that there are seven continents … no wait, there are definitely five … maybe three real ones and a handful of small ones?
You see the issue; it’s hard to define what a continent really is. Is it a large landmass completely separate from all others like a social-distancing master? Or, is a continent just any big chunk of land that generally fits together, separated only by a thin isthmus or huge range of mountains, for example? I get the feeling this was so much easier back in the Pangaea days.
I’m not here to prove what is a continent and what isn’t. Instead of trying to define them, we can look at what could be a much better way of “dividing” our world — if we must divide it at all. This potentially better system is by way of the bio-realm. But first, why is the continent system so jacked up in the first place?
Why is the continent system jacked up?
For one, it’s hard to tell what a continent is and how it should be divided. The names of continents we have now were mostly named by outsiders, with proposed etymologies coming mostly from European or Middle Eastern origins. Keep in mind the names of some of these places are so archaic that they can get seriously hard to trace.
Some factors that make the continents confusing can be:
There’s such a diversity of cultures and demographics on any given continent that an umbrella term can’t capture them all (“African” for Tunisia and the Congo, “Asian” for India and Japan)
Many countries fall into a weird buffer zone (Is Egypt African or Asian? Is Armenia Asian or European? What is the Caribbean? The Middle East? Oceania?)
Many countries can’t agree on what the real continents are anyway (North and South America, or just America? Is it Eurasia, or maybe Afro-Eurasia? Australia, Oceania, or Australasia? Good-ness!)
That is pretty jacked up. So, what are the bio-realms? Why might they be better than continents?
Into a new “realm”
Biogeographic realms, in this circumstance, are a way to look at the world by dividing it among major ecological and geographical areas. This means places that share a somewhat continuous ecology (plant and animal life, in most cases, climate and habitat types too). Plus, don’t you just love the word “realms?” It sounds like we’re traveling into some kind of fantasy dimension.
Nearctic Realm (North America excluding the tropics)
Neotropical Realm (all of the Americas in or south of the tropics, i.e. Central & South America + the Caribbean)
Palearctic Realm (all of Europe and Asia north of the tropics, including Northern Africa)
Afrotropical Realm (all of Africa in or south of the tropics, including the tropics of Arabia and the Arabian Sea coast west of Pakistan)
Indo-Malayan Realm (all of Asia in or south of the tropics, going east from Pakistan)
Australasian Realm (Australia, New Zealand, and Melanesia, including Papua and Maluku Islands)
Oceanian Realm (Micronesia and Polynesia, generally the Asia-Pacific region)
Antarctic Realm (Antarctica and the surrounding seas)
*I like to separate between West and East Palearctic since the region is so huge, but that’s personal preference, not scientific or anything
One cool thing about this system of looking at the world is that it is more fluid. For example, Mauritius and Madagascar can be considered Afrotropical in terms of geography but Indo-Malayan in terms of culture and history. On a broader note, this grouping can help people get a truer sense of what the world really looks like. The bio-realms are intended to be solely geographical, but without really trying, they pretty well represent most of the historic and cultural interactions that people have had over the millennia too.
For instance, Morocco had a lot more interaction and influence in nearby Spain than it did in faraway Uganda. Pretty much all of Latin America — and the Caribbean with which it shares many similarities — are in or south of the tropics anyway. South and Southeast Asia have been interacting with and have a lot more in common with each other than they do with the rest of Asia. North African countries have a lot more shared history and identity with Europe and the Middle East than they do with Sub-Saharan Africa in general.
Of course, the world is globalizing and interconnectivity between cultures is constantly on the rise. Even still, the divisions of bio-realms make a lot more sense when grouping places together based on shared geography, climate, and cultures.
Like with the continents, there are definitely problematic zones that aren’t so easy to categorize. Places like Melanesia, the Sahara, and the Himalayas are still tricky because the cultural and geographic lines aren’t so clear-cut from one side to the other. Several countries like Mexico, China, and Indonesia would fall into two realms, while countries like Pakistan fall into three. That could get a little weird. Even with these issues, I appreciate that the bio-realms at least show how there are great levels of diversity within those countries, amplifying their special roles as doorways between realms. (See, isn’t this fun?!)
Going back to the purpose of this article, the bio-realm system wouldn’t be a way to divide people but to more accurately view the world the way it really is. They are not supposed to be a sharp clear line of separation, but rather a wide fuzzy line that combines similar areas into large general categories. The system is much more accurate at representing the world’s actual geography, somewhat better at grouping the world’s people, but still flawed like any other manmade labeling system.
What do you think about the bio-realms? Did you understand this way of dividing the world? Could it be valuable to utilize this system and the continental system together? Or would you rather stick with the good old continents?
Thank you for reading, and take good care of each other, whatever realm you reside in!
Heading out to the middle of the prairie, this is Saskatchewan’s time. A Canadian province known for flat open terrain and farming, this place definitely has a lot more specialties than milk and bread. Read a quick profile and then enjoy about 10 cool things that make Saskatchewan a unique place.
SASKATCHEWAN: Quick Profile
Cities: Regina is the capital; Saskatoon is the biggest city
Location: the middle of the three Prairie provinces in the interior of central Canada, far from any oceans; it borders the U.S. to the south
Climate: mostly humid continental (humid hot summers and snowy cold winters) with Subarctic climate in the north and some semi-arid steppe (dry plains) features in the southwest; the weather usually comes in extremes with particularly warm summers and intensely cold winters throughout; weather can be very windy with tornadoes and storms being fairly common, although Saskatchewan gets more sunlight than any other province
Environment: mostly prairies and plains in the south with some highlands; mostly boreal forests and taiga to the north with over 100 thousand lakes, Lake Athabasca is the largest; some tundra in the far north and some large areas of sand dunes
Name: it was once a part of Britain’s North West Territories; named after the Saskatchewan River, from the Cree language meaning “swift flowing river”
1. Because of Grasslands National Park
What is it?:
Grasslands is a national park in southern Saskatchewan near the U.S. border. It preserves lots of prairies and rolling Great Plains landscapes, as well as the range critters.
Places and features:
Wildlife and hiking; Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with some highlands and collections of dinosaur fossils
2. Because of Moose Jaw
What is that?:
While not a literal Moose Jaw, this place is a small city in rural Saskatchewan. Despite its size, it has a nicely infused natural landscape and some unique experiences throughout.
Places and features:
Tunnels of Moose Jaw, tunnel tours that explore parts of the city’s underground past such as prohibition and Chinese immigration; Wakamow Valley, urban park; the Western Development Museum, exploring how the West was won; Mac the Moose, a giant moose statue; Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa, aluxurious spa with a big geothermal pool
Well, Regina (Reh-jai-na) is the capital and one of the main cultural hubs in the whole province. The city hosts several events and festivals along with some beautiful urban scenery. It may not be the most populous city in Saskatchewan, but it doesn’t miss by much
Places and features:
Saskatchewan Legislative Building; RCMP Heritage Centre, dedicated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with festivals and service ceremonies; the Government House; MacKenzie Art Gallery; Royal Saskatchewan Museum; Saskatchewan Science Centre; Wascana Centre, a huge urban lake with an even bigger park surrounding the city center and provincial buildings; Hotel Saskatchewan, offers historic interactions with a step back into the prohibition era; Victoria Park
4. Because of Saskatoon
What is it?:
You know! Saskatoon is the biggest city, or most populous I should say, in the province. Similar to Regina, it offers lots of cultural and culinary attractions mixed in with a beautiful natural landscape.
Places and features:
Forestry Farm Park & Zoo; Remai Modern, a cooly-designed modern art gallery; Western Development Museum, the largest of these in Saskatchewan; Ukrainian Museum of Canada, documenting Ukrainian heritage in the nation and one of the biggest ethnic minorities of Canada; South Saskatchewan River, a scenic river that runs through town, it shelters riverside green spaces like Rotary Park and Kiwanis Memorial Park; the Delta Bessborough Hotel
5. Because of the Trans-Canada Highway
What is it?:
This is basically what it sounds like. Within Saskatchewan, the Trans-Canada Highway takes drivers across pretty sweeping landscapes and through some interesting towns and provincial parks.
Places and features:
Qu’Appelle Valley, a stunning valley area with lakes and places like Echo Valley Provincial Park and Fort Qu’Appelle; Moose Mountain Provincial Park, several other towns and parks along the way
6. Because of its Unique Lakes
What are they?:
Saskatchewan, like much of Canada, is known for its many, many lakes. With so many of them, this province still has some that stand out from the rest.
Places and features:
Little Manitou Lake, a lake with a high salt concentration that allows for floating, it also hosts a resort and spa nearby; Lake Diefenbaker, an artificial lake or reservoir with interesting rock formations, cliffs, and a long shoreline; Jackfish Lake, with nearby Cochin Lighthouse (in the middle of the prairies!)
7. Because of Historic Towns & Forts
What are these?:
Historic towns and sites like forts are important places where the past can be preserved. Saskatchewan has a lot of these places that share its extensive history.
Places and features:
Maple Creek, home to a frontier-themed B&B called Ghostown Blues and Fort Walsh, a historic mounted police fort; Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a cultural historic center near Saskatoon documenting over 6,000 years of First Nations heritage; Batoche, a stronghold town during the Métis rebellion, now a museum; Fort Carlton, a Hudson’s Bay fur trade post; the Battlefords, Battleford and North Battleford were important towns for the mounted police during territory days, home to Fort Battleford and, you guessed it, another Western Development Museum
8. Because of Sand Dunes
What are those?:
Outsiders might not know that Saskatchewan is home to the largest sand dunes in the world that far north. Some are in the southern region, but the biggest dunes are a drive up.
Places and features:
Great Sand Hills, Canada’s second-largest; Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park, Canada’s largest dunes along the shores of mighty Lake Athabasca
9. Because of its Northern Wilderness
What is that?:
To the north of this province is a vast area of wilderness. This ranges from dense boreal forests to scattered taiga, from the many lakes to tundra and even sand dunes, as we just saw before.
Places and features:
Clearwater River Provincial Park, with waterfalls, rivers, and rapids; Prince Albert National Park, with controversial conservationist Grey Owl’s Beaver Lodge; Reindeer Lake; Lake Athabasca; Hunt Falls, powerful waterfalls up north
10. Because of its Culture
Saskatchewan is a curious one of the Prairie provinces. It’s smack dab in the middle of them, with its plains and open spaces giving it the feel of a giant field or farm. Sure, the plains played a huge role in the settlement of the region from First Nations down to Eastern European farmers, though English and Anglo-Canadian ID is dominant. And it’s notable how important the mounted police culture has been in this place.
The indigenous presence is comparatively big in Saskatchewan’s largest cities. Their cultures are preserved in elaborate galleries, historic sites, and even universities dedicated to them. Beyond that, these cultural centers help to preserve so well the building blocks of the province’s society. They make it clear where the modern place has come from.
Spikes in temperature and the harsh climate have molded its diverse residents into toughness and resistance. Previously a province that suffered hard economical times, Saskatchewan has been turning business around and making things more interesting for all. Whether passing through on the open highway or stopping to slide on some dunes, this grain basket of Canada has a lot of flavor for any taste!
**Thank you all for coming! I hope you enjoyed learning more about Saskatchewan. Tell us what you like about this place, and shout out if you’re from SK. Feel free to look at other posts on Cult-Surf or related posts in the Earth’s Face section. Take care and be awesome! Peace.
We’re starting off a new section here in CultSurf just to give you all a bit of variety. We’ve been discussing culture, society, music, and movies from around the globe (mostly the USA, sorry, I’m a little biased). Some of you might be interested in learning more about the in-depth characteristics of English-speaking countries. We won’t focus too much on culture here, but more on geography and a few other things. I was really inspired by Geography Now on YouTube and I enjoy their channel, so I’ll share their video with the corresponding countries if they’ve made it already. They make videos about all the world’s countries from A-Z, so it might take a while for them to reach Zimbabwe, for example.
What does an American know about Canada?
So obviously I won’t be writing about myself or Americans that know a lot about Canada. I’m speaking about what I knew about the country before I started learning geography, and what my fellow citizens may or may not know already.
We know about some cities like Toronto and Vancouver, probably Montréal. Some of us like the name Newfoundland and joke at how hard it can be to pronounce.
We know it’s freezing up there. We’ve seen those pictures of polar bears walking through town.
Moose, caribou, Northern Lights, and the Arctic is somewhere up there.
We have to cross it to get to Alaska.
Funny accents, eh? And syrup, lots of bacon and syrup.
The Provinces & Cities (and Territories)
As we see on our lovely map, Canada has 10 subdivisions called provinces, plus another 3 called territories.
Central Canada has the two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. This is also where you find the two biggest cities, Toronto and Montréal. It’s known as central Canada even though it’s not directly in the middle of the country. That’s because historically these were the main places to be settled by the British and French as the colony known as Canada. Later they spread out and acquired more land. These places have the most people and are the biggest economic and cultural influencers in the country. They’re also massive, reaching from the Great Lakes all the way up to the northern tundra!
The smallest provinces are in the general Atlantic Maritimes region, which are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. These areas were among the last to really join Canada as a united country. They had lots of immigration from Scotland and Ireland, and have a much stronger sea culture than the rest of the country. They’re sort of like the New England of Canada. They were also the main places that welcomed British Loyalist soldiers during and after the American War for Independence.
Then there’s out West. This area can be thought of generally as the Great Plains and mountains of Canada. Here we have Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, though B.C. can also be thought of as the West Coast province. These were lands acquired after Central Canada was already set up, and are known for big open spaces, farming and agriculture, and lots of mountain stuff. There is major business and cultural influence coming from this part of Canada too, especially since Calgary and Vancouver are major global centers.
And then there were the Territories; Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut. These, generally speaking, are three massive landmasses (haha) way up in the tundra and arctic of North America. They are very, very, very scarcely populated and mostly got attention during the gold rush years, especially in Yukon. Otherwise there’s lots of ice and natural beauty, but I’m pretty sure they’re the least known region of the country overall.
A little about the cities, you have Toronto, Ontario, the biggest in the country, that is known as one of the most, if not the most, ethnically diverse cities in the world. I think about half the city is non-white, if not more, and even the white population is pretty diverse there. The capital, Ottawa, is in Ontario as well. A lot of the world-famous artists from Canada come from this lower area of Ontario, like Justin Bieber, Drake, The Weekend, and so on. Niagara Falls is the home of those same falls, and Mississauga has some cool spacey architecture.
Montréal is the 2nd biggest mostly French-speaking city in the world and is also extremely diverse, as is the rest of Canada. Québec is a very traditional European-looking city, especially in the old town. Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland are important port cities and historic centers. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the biggest city in the world for how far north it is. Calgary is also a very big city and cultural center. Some other major cities worth your research are Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, and St. John.
What are They?
So we know Canada has provinces, not states. The provinces actually are quite similar to states in how they are run, and many freedoms that the United States are allowed, so too are the Canadian provinces. Provinces, in general, tend to come from more Empirical powers (like the United Kingdom was) and so this name stems from historical association. The United States were also at once independent states that united, while Canada’s provinces have mostly been under the rule of Britain except for a few exceptions.
Canada stayed loyal and sympathetic to Britain for much longer than the U.S. which could explain many things about their cultural identity. Otherwise, the territories are similar to territories of any country. Even though they are huge, they have tiny populations. This makes it so that their representation is a little less relevant on the national scale, and so they do in fact have less representation.
And the Commonwealth?
Like with province, there’s no universal definition of what a commonwealth really is. Puerto Rico and Guam, for example, are commonwealths of the U.S. Still, the British Commonwealth states have a lot more autonomy and are all considered their own sovereign states with some more or less cordial ties to Britain. The Monarch really only has a say in cases of a complete national or political emergency really, but otherwise Canadians are Canadians and not Brits. Although as I said before, they do and did keep stronger ties with Britain (and France, for that matter) over the years than the U.S. did.
Canada’s English-Speaking. What About Québec?
Good question. Canada traditionally had two main European colonizers: the English/British and the French. You’ll actually see this in a lot of English-speaking countries, where France took the colony from Britain or Britain took it from France and so there is a lot of mixed historical identity. Think of Louisiana, St. Lucia, or Cameroon. Geographically, Canada’s French-speaking population stuck mostly to one general area, giving this group a more distinct identity. People from Québec have long had mixed feelings about Canada, some wanting to separate into their own independent place while others just want more autonomy (not to mention those who don’t really care either way). Speaking English, French, or Punjabi, they’re all Canadians in the end.
Generally, there is pride in the history of French Canada, the part of Canada where the country got its name from. English and French are both official languages in the nation, but French is a lot stronger in Québecprovince, along with a few pockets of places in the neighboring provinces. You also get St. Pierre and Miquelon, which is an overseas territory of France (something like French Guiana, although it’s a full-on department of France) that borders Newfoundland and is fully French.
Talk More About Diversity
Canada is really one of the most diverse countries there is, and this is due to its historic reputation as an open arm for immigrants. The Asian (East and South) population and impact on Canadian culture is huge. German and Scandinavian identity is big in some regions, not to mention the largest communities of Icelandic and Ukrainian descendants outside those countries live in Canada. The country has also welcomed many from other Commonwealth states and former colonies, such as Caribbeans and Guyanese, Africans, Indians, and Pakistanis. The most influential though, hands down, have been the British and French.
Most Canadians live within a few hundred miles from the U.S. border which also impacts the culture. Northern Americans and most Canadians have a fluid cultural and societal mixture that influences one and the other. This is especially true of migration, business, and the arts. Lots of Canadians have American ancestry and vice-versa. And of course, the first occupants of the continent have had a huge impact on the country. In Canada, they are generally referred to as First Nations, and they themselves are as diverse and influential as the later foreigners that would create modern Canada. They generally are considered two main groups, the traditional people most of us think of as Native or indigenous Americans, and the Inuits, a set of people with a bit different ancestry.
Let’s End with Some Actual Geography!
Canada has a land area of over 3.5 million square miles, making it the second biggest country in the world after Russia. It has a population of about 38 million, less than countries like South Korea, Spain, and Uganda, which are way smaller. I mean, compare them on a map. The Maritimes are mostly chilly and rainy with oceanic climates and many pretty islands. The northern continuation of the Appalachian Mountain system goes up here, and way up North in Labrador to Nunavut you get the Arctic Cordillera range of tall, jagged, arctic mountains.
The south of Central Canada borders the U.S. by way of the super-important St. Lawrence River system, as well as the Great Lakes. This area is very hospitable and is where the biggest urban areas are concentrated. You also get big waterfalls and some dense forests on up to Hudson Bay which supports a kind of wet plain. It usually freezes over and so this is a major crossing ground for Arctic animals like polar bears. The middle of the country has an outstanding number of lakes, and the north is especially stocked with some of the biggest forests and highest amount of lakes on planet Earth.
Going back down, you get a general plains and prairies region that goes on till you hit some mountains. These are essentially the Canadian extension of the Rockies, and they go up all the way to the Yukon and even into Alaska. You have a fertile yet somewhat dry valley between those and the coastal mountains and rainy forests which also extend into Alaska. Above all that stuff is basically a large stretch of lakes, cold plains, forests, and taiga (basically a tundra with some scattered trees). Tundra covers most of that very northern part of the country where it steadily transitions into polar landscapes. This is especially true of the massive islands of Nunavut which reach all the way up to the North Pole (and Santa! Oh wait, he’s Scandinavian)
That’s all, you curious geography lovers! I hope you enjoyed mapping out this huge and special country called Canada. As promised, here is the Geography Now video. Please comment if you like Canada. If you are from there (howdy neighbor) comment if you want to teach us more about your fabulous home! Thanks, and we’ll be talking soon.