Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:1 (February 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Rapid change is a hallmark of rural settlement on the Canadian Prairies. All the stages from the initial trickle of pioneers through the closer settlement of established farms to widespread and severe depopulation have been telescoped into a mere one to five generations. This paper focuses upon the geographical patterns of rural population change within the region during the twentieth century. Fundamental to this purpose are township population maps. Several main sub-regions of population change are identified. The grassland zones were settled relatively late, the rural population peaked early at moderate to low densities, and decline to sparse populations was rapid and permanent. Earlier settlement, later peaks, more variable declines partly because of ethnic differences, and higher population densities characterize the more moist parkland belt. Only in the main zones of urban influence and areas of considerable non-farm resource development have sizeable rural populations been retained or regained.