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From 1524, British, French and Dutch adventurers all joined the search for the Northwest Passage - a sea passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and the shortest route to China. In the process the north of Canada was mapped out.

With the prospect of wealth being made from whaling and the fur trade, Europeans began to explore in earnest during the 18th and 19th century.

Until 1870, when the Canadian government took over, administration of the territories was shared between the Hudson’s Bay Company [1] and the British Goverment.

Following the discovery of oil in the 1920s near Fort Norman, a territorial government was set up.


Initially a seal was used of the achievement of the United Kingdom with an appropriate legend.


Seal of Public Authority of the North West Territories


Arms: Royal achievement of general purpose post-1837.



Ensigns Armorial

The ensigns of the Northwest Territories have the following blazon:


Arms: Per bend wavy Gules and Vert billety Or in sinister chief the mask of an arctic fox Argent, on a chief indented also Argent a barrulet wavy Azure.

Crest: On a wreath Argent and Gules a compass rose Proper between two Narwhals hauriant and addorsed Or.

By R.W. 24th February 1956


The green and red of the field separated by a wavy line represent the Mackenzie Valley and the tundra, respectively, divided by the tree-line. The gold billets and the mask of a white fox refer to the important mineral and fur resources of the Territory. The constant attempts in marine history to discover the Northwest Passage to China and the Orient are alluded to in the chief by a wavy blue line passing through an ice field. The gold narwhals of the crest protect a compass rose, symbolic of the North Magnetic Pole which is situated in the Northwest Territories. [3]

Embellished Arms of Northwest Territories [4]


Grant of Arms for the Northwest Territories, 1956.


App’d E.R.


The Secretary of State of Canada presents his humble duty to Her Majesty the Queen.

He has the honour to submit that it is expedient that there should be granted and assigned to the Nirthwest Territories, Canada, the following Armorial Bearings, that is to say:


Arms: Per bend wavy Gules and Vert Billety Or in sinister chief the Mask of an Arctic Fox Argent on a Chief indented also Argent a barrulet wavy Azure.

Crest: On a wreath Argent and Gules A compass Rose proper between two Narwhals hauriant and addorsed Or


The secretary of State of Canada, therefore, humbly petitions Her Majesty to give authority accordingly by endorsing Her approval of the present subm,ission with Her Royal Hand.

The secretary of State of Canada remains Her Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant.


Secretary of State of Canada


Ottawa, February 17, 1956.



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© Hubert de Vries 2015-11-17



[1] Hudson’s Bay Company: (inc. 21 Charles II 1670) Ar. A cross gu. between four beavers pass. Ppr. Crest - On a chapeau gu. turned up erm. a squirrel sejant ppr.. Supporters - Two bucks ppr. Motto - pro pelle cutem. Burke’s General Armory (1884).

[2] Swan, Conrad: Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty. Toronto & Buffalo, 1977. The seal is on a proclamation dated 23 March 1903 by the Lieutenent Governor summoning the meeting of the Legislative Assembly of the N.W.T.of 16.04.1903

[3] The armorial bearings for the two Territories were based on designs by Lieutenant-Commander Alan B. Beddoe, O.B.E., R.C.N. (R). For further details vide Beddoe, A.B. ‘Recent Canadian Heraldry’ The Coat of Arms, Vol. IV, N°. 29, January, 1957, pp. 192-193. Swan, Conrad: The Canadian Arms of Dominion and Sovereignty. In: Recueil du Ve Congrès International des Sciences Généalogique et Héraldique à Stockholm.  Stockholm, 1960 pp 269-270.

[4] From: Swan, Conrad: Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty. Toronto & Buffalo, 1977

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