Where you can watch the dog run away for three days.
I spent two years there last winter.

Saskatchewan, pronounced "sah-skahch-Euh-wän," comes from the Plains Cree word "kisiskatchewan," which means swiftly flowing river.

Saskatchewan is one of 10 Canadian provinces. If you'd like to find it on a map, it is the third one in from the west, and is surrounded by North Dakota and Montana to the south; Alberta to the west, Manitoba to the east and Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to the north. On such a map, the province is a nice rectangle, with boundaries artificially drawn, as there are no natural landmarks to break up space. The province is fairly flat grassland in the south, and has many lakes and trees in the north.

The province's capital is Regina, population 199,100. The largest city is Saskatoon, population 227,600. The populations given were taken by Statistics Canada on July 1, 2001. Between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, Saskatchewan had 12,541 births and 9,266 deaths. Net interprovincial emigration was 10,453.

That figure doesn't tell the whole story, though. With the traditional family farm dying, and the technology sector in Canada fast growing as part of the economy, most emigrants are young and educated. As the province becomes (in population) older and/or less educated, some are worried about Saskatchewan's development in continuing years. The government has started to create incentives for the technology sector and lower taxes for people who actually stick around.

If you're looking to fly in, more power to you. Saskatchewan is served by Canadian airlines Air Canada and its sundry splinters, WestJet, and small local bush-hoppers. The main airports are in Regina (YQR) and Saskatoon (YXE).

Languages: By the 1996 census's population of 976,615 people, 920,555 had working knowledge of only English, while 345 had knowledge of only French. 50,770 people knew both English and French, while 4,945 had knowledge of neither (this category was not broken down further, but Aboriginal languages play a large role here).

Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, created with the same act of parliment that made Alberta. It's been the poorer cousin ever since.

The telephone area code for the province is currently 306. Go ahead, reach out and touch someone.

Saskatchewan follows Central Standard Time (UTC - 6h). The province is the lone Canadian hold-out against Daylight Saving Time, as, back when Saskatchewan was mostly farmers, cows didn't follow alarms clocks. Now, people just like to be different.

Weather: The province bills itself as the sunniest province in Canada, with between 2,000 and 2,500 hours of sunshine averaged annually. Try saying that it's a dry heat, people in Saskatchewan love that. Regina, the capital, has 107.4 centimetres of snow annually, 364 cm rain and 109 wet days, the lowest amount of any capital.

Law and Order: Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) training academy is in Regina (yes, there is only one). The annual homicide rate in the province has been running steadily below 40 since 1996. There are about 530 people per police officer.

Growing stuff: Saskatchewan is a province of farm land. Approximately 54 per cent of the wheat grown in Canada is produced in Saskatchewan (at last count). Saskatchewan's top five crops are spring wheat, canola, barley, durum wheat, and alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. The top fruit crop is Saskatoon berries (yes, there is such a berry as the Saskatoon berry, and there are probably some in the city of Saskatoon). The top three vegetables are sweet corn, cabbage and green peas. In 2001, there were 2,899,502 heads of cattle in the province, almost three for every one human. Moo.

Other: The unemployment rate in the province was, in April 2002, 5.9 per cent, with a 66.2-per-cent participation rate.

Official symbols:

Did you know Saskatchewan has two official tartans? The provincial tartan has seven colours: gold, brown, green, red, yellow, white and black. The dress tartan was introduced in 1997 for competitive highland dancing, to be held that year in Regina. The dress tartan is a variant on the original provincial tartan.

The official animal is the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus. The official bird is the sharp-tailed grouse, Pedioecetes phasianellus jamesi, one of the more popular game birds in the area. The floral emblem is the western red lily, a protected species. In what may be a Canadian first, the province adopted Needle-and-thread grass, Hesperostipa comata, as its provincial grass in 2001. Potash is the provincial rock. Last of the fun emblems, the provincial tree is the white birch, Betula papyrifera.

The official sport is curling, and the province is home to Canada's first Olympic gold winning curling team.

Education: There are two public universities in Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan. There are others that you can read about here.

Park it: There are currently 34 provincial parks, 137 recreation sites, eight historic sites and 24 protected areas in Saskatchewan. There are two national parks: Grasslands, which protects sections of prairie, fossils (dinosaur, not old people) and badlands, and Prince Albert, which sits in the centre of the province.

Now, for a delightful selection of Saskatchewanian hardlinks for you.

The Big Rectangle

Ah, Saskatchewan. Perhaps the easiest of all Canadian provinces to draw, being that it consists of four straight lines at right angles. (The only real competition here comes from P.E.I., since if you draw it to the same scale it's just a squiggly dot.)

I'm from Saskatchewan, and it probably shows. I'm the grandson of German homesteaders who settled up in the northern part of the "wheat belt", so I have the farming roots typical of most Saskatchewanians. There's a certain self-deprecating, kind of earthy sense of humour that you get, living out on the Prairies. The kind that lets you joke about grasshoppers the size of bichon frises, about potholes the size of asteroid craters (an exaggeration; at worst they're the size of meteor impact craters), about a landscape so flat you can watch your dog run away for a week (exaggeration; three days, at most).

And then there's the winter jokes. If you're from Alberta, or possibly Ontario, you probably know them, or at least have heard them — "Only two seasons in Saskatchewan; winter and road construction," "so cold during a Prairie winter, politicians keep their hands in their own pockets," "so cold on the Prairies most politicians can't build up enough hot air to talk until March, and even then can't manage a full-blown speech until May". Those jokes.

Saskatchewan is also known for its writers — for example, W.O. Mitchell. Come to think of it, W.O. Mitchell is pretty much the only author anyone remembers as coming from Saskatchewan. He's just that dominant a figure in the field of Saskatchewan literature, casting his massive shadow across a province of trembling, awed writers. Kind of like Diefenbaker. Or maybe Tommy Douglas if you're a Dipper.

Saskatchewan has other memorable things, though. Like a giant Ukranian easter egg on the side of the highway. And a giant tomahawk on the side of the highway. And a giant metal grasshopper on the side of the highway. And a lot of wheat fields on the side of the highway. Also some uranium mines around where Reagan's missile defense system would have shot down any Roosian nuclear warheads, but nobody cares about Uranium City. Oh, and potash mines. And some hockey players' hometowns and curlers.

Speaking of curling — you have to wonder sometimes about those curlers. Yelling things as they slide down the ice, like, "HURRY HARD! HURRYYY!" Makes you wonder about the people that listen to curling on the radio, too. Curling, as you may know, is very popular in Saskatchewan, because there are so many rinks. Why are there so many rinks? Because it's so easy to build them. Why is it easy to build them? Because Saskatchewan is so flat. Why is Saskatchewan so flat? Because of receding glacial action during the last ice age. Which makes a certain kind of sense, you know — curling is big in Saskatchewan because of the actions of ice-age glaciers.

I'm sure there are other provinces, states or territories that are almost as easy to draw as Saskatchewan. But I can't think of any offhand. If there are, I'm sure someone will inform me of their existence.

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