Located on the shores of the Hudson Bay, the Town of Churchill and the surrounding area are steeped in history as old as Canada. Archaeology in the area shows evidence of human presence dating back 4,000 years to the Pre-Dorset and Dorset people. For centuries, Churchill has been a meeting place for culture and trade.
The first European to explore "The Bay” was Henry Hudson in 1608. Jens Munck lead the ill- fated Danish expedition and they were the first Europeans to winter in the Churchill area in 1619 to 1620. Ill equipped for the harsh winter 62 of his 64-crew perished from effects of scurvy, trichinosis and exposure.
In 1670, The Hudson’s Bay Co. was formed, and the fur trade had begun. In 1689 the Hudson Bay Company established a trading post on the wintering site used by Jens Munck, the site was approximately 5 miles from the mouth of river, later that same year the post burned. It was rebuilt in 1717 and named Fort Churchill and serves as a solid reminder of the fur trade which first put Churchill on the map.
In 1713 a young Chipewyan woman named Thanadelthur was captured by the Cree where she was enslaved for a year. Thanadelthur escaped her captures and eventually came across the HBC York Factory Post where she worked with James Knight as a translator, with a wealth of local knowledge. Her knowledge and skills served her and the HBC well as she was instrumental in harbouring peace between the Cree and Chipewyan which has had lasting impact on all involved.
Churchill became the site of the first astronomical observations made in Canada in 1769. It also became the departure point for the first overland journey made by a European, Samuel Hearne, to the Arctic Ocean.Unrest between the English and French produced a military fort which was eventually turned over to a superior French force by Governor Samuel Hearne in 1782. Hearne re-established the original post one year later.
Fort Churchill, located five miles east of Churchill was first established in 1942 by the United States Air force as part of proposed overseas air operations to Europe. After the Second World War, Canada and the US jointly sponsored a training and experimental centre. The base was officially closed in August of 1980.
Between the two world wars, the railway was completed connecting Churchill to the rest of the province. A grain elevator was also constructed at this time and the town was then moved to the east side of the Churchill River. This helped Churchill grow from a remote outpost to a bustling seaport.
Set amid rugged wilderness, life in Churchill today depends on the latest technology as well as traditional life skills. The community melds tradition and innovation in many ways and allows our remote but accessible northern community to stay connected with the world.