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Let's Learn About Regina

Regina...at home on the plains
Settlement begins
The town is named
Louis Riel
Regina becomes a city
Tragic storm strikes the city
Achievements of the '20s
Challenges of the '30s
The post-war boom
The '80s and '90s
Regina...full of things to do
Municipal government
City Symbols
Regina - Dates to Remember
Regina's mayors
History of Regina Fire Department
City of Regina Archives Site


Regina...at home on the plains
Indian Encampment Near Regina, 1924
If you look at a map of North America, it's easy to find where Regina is located. It is the city at the heart of the continent. Regina is also located at the centre of the Canadian plains. This is a vast area of grain-growing country. On the plains, the land is flat, stretching as far as the eye can see, and the sky seems like an enormous ceiling. Regina is like an oasis of buildings, trees, people and activity in the middle of the rolling prairies. Because of this, Regina is sometimes called the City on the Horizon. The city is also the capital of the province of Saskatchewan.

Today, Regina is home to about 187,000 people. Years ago, however, Regina was just a "pile o' bones."

Long before the arrival of settlers, the Regina area was known by First Nations hunters as a place where buffalo grazed. The Cree Indians who came to the area used buffalo as their main source of food, clothing and shelter. The bones remaining from the buffalo hunt were gathered into huge round piles. These piles were about two metres high and 12 metres in diameter at the base. Shin bones and other long bones were placed at the bottom of the pile, radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. The Indians believed the buffalo would not leave an area that contained the bones of other buffalo. The Cree name for this special place was Oskana-Ka-asateki - "the bones that are piled together." The first settlement at the site was called "Pile O' Bones."

Over the years, the spot was a refuge for many. The Metis hunted there. Explorers, fur traders, surveyors and settlers who crossed the plains also had special names for the area. To them, it was "Many Bones," "Bone Creek" or "the Old Crossing." It was one of a very few locations where there was water, wood, and shelter from winter blizzards and summer grass fires.

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Settlement begins
Early Regina, 1882

In June of 1882, the first settlers set up camp near the present site of Wascana Lake. That same year, the Canadian Pacific Railway was built across the Plains, and through the settlement. The settlement was located in the heart of excellent farmland. People were eager to settle there. Under the Dominion Lands Act, new homesteaders could claim 160 acres of land for $10. Many took advantage of the offer.

People also came to set up shops and businesses. Many of the first residents lived in tents or little shacks. Imagine what those first streets were like. There were no trees, sidewalks or paved roads. And you had to make way for cattle and horses.

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The town is named

In late 1882, the site was given a more regal name. It was named "Regina," in honour of Queen Victoria. Her daughter, Princess Louise, suggested the name. Princess Louise was also the wife of the Marquis of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada at that time. Regina is now often referred to as the Queen City.

Regina grew quickly from a tiny settlement to a boom town. The North West Mounted Police (later called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) moved its headquarters to Regina. The Mounted Police had been sent out west because the railways were drawing more and more people to the area, and strong policing became necessary. The headquarters later moved to Ottawa, but the RCMP Training Academy remains in Regina to this day.

In 1883, Regina replaced the more northern site of Battleford as the capital of the North West Territories. The politicians felt Battleford was too far from the railway to be the capital. Soon, Regina had a newspaper, postal service, churches, schools and fire and police protection. On December 1, 1883, Regina officially became a town. Dr. David L. Scott was elected as the town's first mayor on January 10, 1884. During those days, bread sold for 25 cents a loaf, wood cost $12 a load and creek water was 50 cents a barrel.

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Louis Riel

While Regina grew and prospered, a historic event known as the "Riel Rebellion" or the "Northwest Rebellion" developed north of the town in Batoche. The Metis of Saskatchewan were unhappy with government policies. They wanted changes made
Louis Riel in Prisoner's Dock, 1886

and invited Louis Riel to help them. Riel had established a provisional or temporary government for the Metis in the Red River area of Manitoba 15 years earlier. In 1885, he did the same for the Saskatchewan Metis, with headquarters in Batoche. The Canadian government viewed this as a revolt. A group of 75 Regina men, known as the "Blazers," was formed to defend their town. Clashes with government troops led to a final battle at Batoche. The Metis were defeated and Riel surrendered. Riel was brought to Regina where he was tried for treason, found guilty and hanged on November 16, 1885. It was a sad chapter in the city's history. Each summer local actors re-enact the "Trial of Louis Riel."

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Regina becomes a city

By 1903, Regina had a population of 3,000. On June 19 of that year, Regina officially became a city. The city's first mayor was Jacob W. Smith. Two years later, on September 4, 1905, Saskatchewan became a province. On May 23 the following year, Regina was confirmed as its capital.

The government of the new province needed a building in which to meet. In 1908, work began on the Legislative Building situated on Wascana Lake. It took four years to complete. Three hundred men worked day and night for a year and a half just to prepare the stone front of the building. Also in 1908, work was completed on Regina's new City Hall, located on the present site of the Galleria shopping centre. The city continued to grow. Homes were built. Streets were paved. Trees were planted everywhere. Today, there are more than 300,000 hand-planted trees throughout Regina.

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Tragic storm strikes the city


In the midst of the city's progress, tragedy hit. On a hot day, June 30, 1912, a cyclone roared through Regina.
After Cyclone Hit Regina, 1912

In just 20 minutes, the vicious storm killed 28 people, injured hundreds more and destroyed more than 400 buildings. Twenty-five hundred people were left homeless. It took the young city two years to repair the more than $5 million in damage.

Achievements of the '20s

Regina entered the "air age" immediately following the First World War. In 1920, a returning veteran, Roland Groome, became the first commercial pilot in Canada.
Regina's First "Air Harbor", 1920

Groome and his partner Ed Clark also opened an aerodrome in Regina, the first licensed aerodrome in the country. Eight years later, a permanent airport opened.

By 1924, Regina was Canada's largest distribution centre for farm equipment and supplies.

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Challenges of the '30s

Regina Riot, 1935In 1930, the Depression hit, and more than 3,700 men were without jobs. To create work, the government started a number of projects. They hired men to drain Wascana Lake and deepen it. The workers used only hand shovels and dump wagons to do the job. The dirt they removed was then used to build Willow Island in the lake. The Albert Street Memorial Bridge was also built. It is known as "the longest bridge over the shortest span of water."

Workers also began creating a beautiful park around the lake and the Legislative Building. Today, Wascana Centre is one of the largest urban parks in North America.

Unemployment created distress all across the country. In 1935, a group of unemployed men in British Columbia began a train trip to Ottawa to demand that the federal government do something to help them. This journey was known as the On-to-Ottawa Trek. The government issued arrest warrants for seven of the trek leaders. When the group reached Regina, the police tried to make the arrests and violence broke out. One policeman died and several officers and trekkers were injured in the fight. The trek ended in this ruckus, known as the "Regina Riot."

Conditions improved in the late 1930s, but the Second World War dampened Regina's hopes for a full recovery. Regina became home to three air training schools for soldiers. The General Motors car assembly plant, which had been closed, was reopened to make equipment for the war.

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The post-war boom

Regina Skyline 1976After the war, in the 1950s, Regina began to prosper once again. An oil pipeline linked Regina with newly discovered oil fields in Alberta, and refineries in eastern Canada. The City built the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History (later named the Royal Saskatchewan Museum), a new post office and a geriatric centre. That centre later became Wascana Hospital, which was renamed the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.

By the early 1960s, Regina was growing at a rate of 4,500 new residents a year. Churches, schools and shopping centres were built. In 1963, City Hall was moved into the old Post Office at Scarth Street and 11th Ave. A new court house and public library were opened. Work began on the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan.

The look of Regina's downtown also changed in the next decade. Towering bank buildings, hotels, office buildings, shopping centres, and yet another new City Hall (the one used today) were added. The Agridome, on the Exhibition Grounds, opened in 1977. Regina celebrated its 75th anniversary as a city in 1978. Citizens were proud of how much the little tent town had grown in just 75 years.

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The '80s and '90s

Downtown BuildingsRegina continued to change, grow and prosper throughout the '80s and into the '90s. In the downtown, two enclosed shopping centres, the Cornwall Centre and The Galleria, opened. The Scarth Street pedestrian mall was renovated. The twin McCallum Hill Towers were built. A series of enclosed pedestrian walkways were also built to connect many downtown buildings.

A filtration system worth $15 million was added to the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant, improving the taste and smell of Regina's water. The Co-op Heavy Oil Upgrader began operation, and the Saskatchewan Science Centre was built.

In 1992, Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn visited Regina and signed a proclamation giving the City its new flag and Coat of Arms.

To this day, agriculture and natural resources continue to play a major role in the city's economy. But the importance of telecommunications, manufacturing, data management, software development and other technological industries is growing.

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Regina...full of things to do

Regina's first residents would marvel at the changes in their city. Today, there's so much to see and do. Regina is the sunniest capital city in Canada, receiving an average of 2,365 hours of sun a year, so outdoor activities are always popular. In the summer, Reginans paddle, row and windsurf on Wascana Lake. They jog, bike and stroll along the Devonian Pathway and Multiuse Pathway and Bikeway. They attend Mosaic, the city's huge multicultural festival; Bazaart, the province's largest outdoor arts and crafts fair; the Dragon Boat Festival; and the Western Canada Farm Progress Show. They also enjoy the Regina Folk Festival, the International Children's Festival, Buffalo Days, and Pile O'Bones Sunday.

Dragon Boat Festival, 1995In the winter, Reginans skate and ski on the lake. They run or walk on the indoor track of the Regina Sportplex and swim in the Lawson Aquatic Centre. They visit the Canadian Western Agribition, an international agricultural exhibition. They also enjoy the winter season at the Waskimo carnival.

Year-round, there are attractions for every interest. There's the RCMP Training Academy and Centennial Museum, the Saskatchewan Science Centre and Kramer IMAX Theatre, and Casino Regina. There are musical concerts of every kind, art exhibitions, and sporting events from soccer and skateboarding to hot-air ballooning and speed skating. Regina is also home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team, the Regina Pats hockey team, and the University of Regina Rams football team.

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Municipal government

The City of Regina municipal government consists of a mayor and 10 city councillors. Together, they make up City Council. Elections for these positions are held every three years. The mayor is elected at large, by all voters. The councillors are elected on the ward system. That means the city is divided up into sections, or wards, and voters in those areas elect one councillor to represent them.

The City collects taxes from all the people who own property in Regina. That money is divided up between the City, the school boards, the hospitals and the library. The City's share equals about one half of all the money collected. Members of City Council are responsible for deciding how that money is used to provide a variety of services and programs to the people of Regina. That includes fresh drinking water, police and fire protection, roads and sidewalks, snow removal, garbage collection, bus service and the city's sewage system. The money also pays for recreational facilities around Regina, so we have places to swim, skate and take arts and crafts classes. As well, it is used to maintain all the beautiful parks throughout the city.

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City symbols

City of Regina Coat of ArmsCoat of Arms: The City of Regina Coat of Arms consists of four parts; the shield in the centre, the crest on top, the supporters on the sides and the City motto across the bottom. The colours on the shield represent the gold fields of grain and the blue prairie sky. The buffalo symbolizes the original riches of the region. The golden wheat sheaf represents the important role agriculture plays in Regina's economy.

The municipal government is represented in the crest with a mural crown, made with stones and mortar in the City's colours. Above this is the Royal Crown, in honour of Regina being named after Queen Victoria, and the City's status as the provincial capital. The supporters include a male RCMP officer on the left, dressed in a uniform from 1882; and a female RCMP officer on the right, dressed in a uniform worn today. They are standing on a grassy mound, representing the parks and many green spaces in Regina. Motto: Regina's historic motto "Floreat Regina" translated from Latin means "Let Regina Flourish."

City of Regina FlagFlag: The City flag combines the principal colours of the shield (the blue for the endless prairie sky and gold for the fields of grain) and the Royal Crown from the crest.

Chain of OfficeChain of Office: The Chain of Office was presented to the City of Regina on May 29, 1978, by Frederick W. Hill, president of McCallum Hill Limited. It commemorates the 75th anniversaries of the City of Regina and McCallum Hill Limited. The gold plated chain consists of 13 round discs. They depict historical events and city landmarks. Each disc is linked by a gold bar inscribed with the name of a Regina mayor. The pendant is the City's previous crest, suspended from the Saskatchewan Coat of Arms.

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Regina - dates to remember

1882 N.W.M.P. headquarters moved to Regina
1883 Regina is incorporated as a town
Regina Leader established
First Public School opens
1884 The first agricultural exhibition takes place
The first election for mayor and councillors takes place
1885 The Riel Rebellion occurs
1886 The first Town Hall is constructed
1889 The first schools are established
1890 The Regina Electric Light and Power Company is registered
1898 Cottage Hospital is established
1903 Regina is incorporated as a city
1905 The Province of Saskatchewan is created
1906 Regina is named Saskatchewan's capital city
1908 The second City Hall is completed
  Regina Symphony Orchestra is born
1911 Streetcar service begins
1912 The Legislative Building is officially opened
  The cyclone hits Regina
1916 Imperial Oil Refinery is built
1918 Simpson's opens its mail-order house
1920 The first licensed aerodrome opens
1930 Albert St. Memorial Bridge is built
1935 The Regina Riot occurs
1939 King George and Queen Elizabeth visit
1951 The oil pipeline joins Regina to Alberta and Eastern Canada
1953 Regina celebrates its Golden Jubilee
1954 CKCK, the first television station in western Canada, opens
1955 The Museum of Natural History opens
1956 The new post office opens
1957 Natural gas service arrives in Regina
  Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery opens
1959 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit
1961 The new Court House opens
1962 Wascana Centre Authority is incorporated
  IPSCO steel mill begins operations
  Regina Public Library opens
1963 The Saskatchewan Power Corporation building opens
  City Hall moves into Old Post Office
  Construction begins on the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan
1965 Northgate Mall, the first enclosed shopping centre in Regina, opens
1966 Globe Theatre opens
1967 First Buffalo Days is held
1970 The Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts opens
1971 Canadian Western Agribition is established
1973 The Plains Hospital opens
  Regina hosts the Silver Broom
  The RCMP celebrates its centennial
  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit
1974 Mosaic, Bazaart, and the University of Regina are established
1975 Scarth Street Mall is created
  Southland Mall opens
  Regina hosts the first Western Canada Summer Games
1976 The new City Hall opens
  Construction begins on the Sheraton Centre, Chateau Tower, Humford House and the T.C. Douglas Building
1977 The Agridome opens
1978 Regina celebrates its 75th anniversary with the opening of Queen Elizabeth II Court
  The new Police Headquarters Building opens
  The first Western Canada Farm Progress Show is held
  Cable television service begins
1980 Construction begins on the Cornwall Centre and the Devonian Pathway
1981 The North West Leisure Centre opens
  The Cornwall Centre opens
1982 Regina celebrates 100 years
  Princess Anne visits
  Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre opens
1983 Regina hosts the Sliver Broom
  The new CBC building opens
1984 Lewvan Expressway is completed
  Regina hosts the Canadian Figure Skating Championships
  Cathedral Recreation Centre opens
1985 The Carbon Filtration Water Treatment Facility at Buffalo Pound opens
  Wascana Place, South Leisure Centre, Core Ritchie Community Centre and Tor Hill Golf Course open
  The Queen Mother visits
1986 The renovated and expanded airport opens
1987 STV begins broadcasting
  Regina hosts the Western Canada Summer Games
  The Regina Sportplex opens
  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit
  Regina twins with Jinan, China
1988 The Ramada Renaissance and the Saskatchewan Trade and Convention Centre open
  Queensbury Centre opens
  The Co-op Heavy Oil Upgrader begins operation
  Regina hosts Royal Red International Arabian Horse show for the first time
1989 Wascana Rehabilitation Centre opens
  The Galleria opens
  Saskatchewan Science Centre opens
  Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup
  The Duke and Duchess of York visit
1990 South East Leisure Centre Opens
1991 Kramer IMAX Theatre opens
1992 McCallum Hill Centre Tower opens
  Crown Life and the Farm Credit Corporation relocate headquarters to Regina
  Regina hosts the Labatt Brier
  Governor General Raymond Hnatyshyn presents Regina with a new flag and coat of arms
1993 Sandra Peterson Rink wins World Women's Curling Championship
1994 Sandra Peterson Rink wins World Women's Curling Championship
  His Royal Highness Prince Edward opens revitalized Scarth Street Mall
1995 Regina hosts the Grey Cup
1996 Casino Regina opens
1998 Sandra Schmirler Rink wins Olympic Gold Medal
  Regina hosts the Scott Tournament of Hearts
  Governor General Roméo LeBlanc visits
  Regina hosts the SaskTel-Ericsson Can-Am Police-Fire Games

2000 Governer General Adrienne Clarkson visits

Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) moves into the Old Plains Hospital

2001 His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visits

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Regina's mayors

From the date of incorporation as a Town in December 1st, 1883:
1884-1885 D.L. Scott, Q.C.
1886-1887 Dan Mowat
1888 W. Cayley Hamilton Q.C.
1889 J.W. Smith
1890 J.A. McCaul
1891-1892 R.H. Williams
1893 J.H.C. Willoughby, M.D.
1894 Robert Martin
1895 G.T. Marsh
1896-1897 W.F. Eddy
1898 F.N. Darke
1899 J.K. McInnis
1900-1901 W.T. Mollard
1902-1903 J.W. Smith

From the date of incorporation as a City on June 19, 1903:
1903 J.W. Smith
1904-1905 H.W. Laird
1906 P. McAra, Jr.
1907-1908 J.W. Smith
1909-1910 R.H. Williams
1911-1912 P. McAra, Jr.
1913-1914 Robert Martin
1915 James Balfour, K.C.
1916-1917 W.D. Cowan, D.D.S.
1918-1919 Henry Black
1920-1922 James Grassick
1923-1924 S.C. Burton
1925-1926 W.E. Mason
1927-1930 J. McAra
1931 James Balfour
1932-1933 J. McAra
1934-1935 Cornelius Rink
1936-1939 A.C. Ellison
1940-1941 James Grassick
1942-1944 C.C. Williams
1945-1946 T.G. McNall
1947-1948 Hugh McGillivray
1949-1951 G.N. Menzies
1952-1953 Gordon B. Grant
1954-1956 L.H. Hammond
1957-1958 T.H. Cowburn
1959-1970 H.H.P. Baker
1971-1973 H.G.R Walker
1974-1979 H.H.P. Baker
1980-1988 Larry Schneider
Oct. 1988 Doreen E. Hamilton
1988- 2000 Douglas R. Archer
2000 Pat Fiacco

For more on Regina's history and a photo collection, go to City of Regina Archives.

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