There has been human habitation in the area of the Northwest Territories for several thousand years. Following European arrival in the area a vast swath of the country was claimed by the British as the North-Western Territories. Covering the modern-day Northwest Territories as well as much of the Yukon, British Columbia, the prairie provinces and Nunavut, the northern portions went relatively unexplored and were legally unsettleable, though trade with native populations was established early in the eighteenth century. The area was unofficially administered by the Hudson's Bay Company until 1859, when the region was officially given to the Company for trade purposes. In 1870 the entirety of the territory was given to the newly-formed Dominion of Canada, combined with the massive expanse or Rupert's Land, and created as the Northwest Territories. The area was slowly whittled down as the province of Manitoba was created and British Columbia was expanded. In 1880 the Northwest Territories grew in size when the Arctic Archipelago was transferred to Canada and made part of the Territories. Voted took place for the first time in the territory the following year. After this the region continued to shrink, with the creation of the majority of the current borders of the Canadian provinces by 1912. In 1925 its boundaries were extended to the North Pole. At this point, the Northwest Territories was within its current borders, as well as covering modern-day Nunavut. Voting was removed from the territory for some time beginning in 1907, but returned in 1951, with the Northwest Territories receiving representation in parliament in 1962. In 1982 a majority of the population voted for a further division of the territory. This was affirmed in 1989, and the new territory of Nunavut was created out of the eastern three-fifths of the territory in 1999.
The Northwest Territories is the central territory in Canada. It consists of a mainland and several islands. It is notable for containing both the largest lake completely within Canada, and the deepest North American lake. It is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by Nunavut, to the south by Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, and to the west by the Yukon. Its capital and largest city is Yellowknife.
There are just over 41,000 people living in the Northwest Territories. A majority of the population reports a Native American origin, with just over 50% claiming that ancestry. Other major ancestries reported include English, Canadian, Scottish, Irish and French. A majority of the population is Christian, with just over 46% adhering to Roman Catholicism. About 17% report no religion.
English is the most commonly spoken language, with just over 77% of the population claiming it as their native tongue. After acrimonious debate French was reintroduced as an official language, on the condition that aboriginal languages be made official as well. As such, there are a total of eleven native languages identified as official.