The Taiga Shield Ecozone stretches across part of Canada's subarctic north. The Russian term "taiga" refers to the northern edge of the boreal coniferous forest. This is the Athapaskan "land of little sticks" that stretches from Labrador to Alaska and from Siberia to Scandinavia. In northern Canada, much of this forest rests on the Canadian Shield, the bedrock heart of the continent. With an area of over 1.3 million square kilometres, the Taiga Shield is one of Canada's largest ecozones. One-third of it lies in the Northwest Territories.
The unique natural history of this area includes an unrivalled showcase of bald Precambrian bedrock that dates back to the planet's earliest days. Dotting the ancient landscape are millions of lakes and wetlands that were carved by successive waves of glacial erosion or which conform to natural depression in the bedrock. The Taiga Shield is an ecological crossroads where climates, soils, plants, birds, and mammals from two worlds -- the Boreal and the Arctic -- meet.
In the Northwest Territories, settlement of the ecozone began over 7 000 years ago as the Paleo-Indians followed Barren-ground Caribou northwards in the wake of receding glaciers. More recently, this area has played a major part in the story of Canada's development due to its pivotal role in the northern fur trade, its concentration of rich mineral resources, and its position as a cultural and political focal point for today's Aboriginal peoples, the Dene and the Inuit.