Initial Ukrainian immigration to Saskatchewan coincided with the great European migrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over 170,000 individuals of Ukrainian origin set out for Canada during the period 1891–1914 as part of the Canadian government’s effort to recruit agriculturalists from east, central and south Europe. Originating primarily from western Ukraine (the former Austro-Hungarian lands of Galicia and Bukowina), Ukrainians were attracted to Canada by the promise of free land: homesteads of 160 acres. The majority eventually concentrated in bloc settlements located across the prairie-parkland of western Canada. As traditional cultural and social practices were recreated by the new arrivals and new forms of community and social life emerged, the cultural landscape of the region—extending southeastward from Edmonton across Saskatchewan to Stuartburn, Manitoba—assumed a distinctive character, identified as it was with the Ukrainian inhabitants. In Saskatchewan, the first Ukrainian settlements were established in the Montmartre-Candiac area by 1895–96, and in 1897 around Yorkton, notably in the districts of Beaver Hills, Crooked Lake, and Wroxton. Subsequently, other early settlements appeared in the districts of Fish Creek-Rosthern (1898) and Redberry Lake (1903), as well as in the Samburg district northeast of Prince Albert in 1906. By 1911 the population of Ukrainian origin in the province had reached 22,276; this represented 29.5% of the total number of Ukrainian residents of Canada, but only 4.5% of the total population of Saskatchewan. Nevertheless, by 1921 a number of provincial districts emerged as distinct areas of concentrated Ukrainian settlement: Insinger (2,408), Redberry (2,086), Ituna-Bon Accord (1,453), Goodlake (1,424), Sliding Hills (1,149), Preeceville (1,102), and Clayton (1,101).
Only 1,291 individuals of Ukrainian origin resided in urban areas in 1911; although this number had doubled in 1921 to 2,807, Ukrainians still accounted for only 1.3% of the total urban population of Saskatchewan. After World War I the Ukrainian community of Saskatchewan benefited from renewed European immigration, growing from 28,907 to 50,700 between the years 1921–31. This tapered off, however, because of the difficult economic circumstances associated with the Great Depression and consequent provincial out-migration, and the Ukrainian population declined to 50,530 in 1941. At this time, Ukrainians began to move to urban centres in greater numbers: in 1921, there were 179 residents of Ukrainian origin in Regina, but by 1941 there were 1,619, constituting 2.3% of the city’s population. Saskatoon, too, had a small number of Ukrainian residents in 1921: 352; but this reached 2,499 in 1941, comprising 5.7% of the population. This urbanizing trend resulted in a shift in the socio-economic character of the community. In 1941, signaling a departure from agricultural work, some 28.2% of gainfully employed Ukrainians were engaged in other industries or professions, including 5.6% employed in trade, finance, and the professional and public services.
By 1941, Ukrainians in Saskatchewan constituted 8.9% of the provincial population and 26.1% of the total number of Ukrainians in Canada. This percentage increased only marginally despite the influx of postwar Ukrainian immigrants to Canada: during the period 1947–54, for example, only 2,025 (or 6.2%) chose Saskatchewan as their destination. Subsequent restrictions on immigration from the Soviet Union had bearing on Ukrainian population growth in the province, so that the community in Saskatchewan would become overwhelmingly Canadian-born: whereas in 1941 there were 55,036 Canadian-born individuals of Ukrainian origin, representing 69% of the total Ukrainian population in the province, by 1961 this increased to 80% and in 1971 to 87%. The indigenized or Canadian-born nature of the Ukrainian-origin population has had an impact on the cultural character of the community. In 1971, there were over 55,385 persons in Saskatchewan who claimed Ukrainian as their mother tongue; this number declined to 44,175 in 1981, and to 27,610 in 1991. Moreover, with the disappearance of the postwar immigration from the demographic map over time, home language use has declined: only 2,835 individuals in 1991 claimed Ukrainian as the language used in the home. As for Ukrainian adherence to the two traditional faiths—Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic—the numbers have diminished as well: Ukrainians gravitate toward the Roman Catholic, United, and Anglican faiths, or increasingly declare no religious affiliation at all. In 1991, those of Ukrainian origin in the province who identified with Eastern Orthodoxy (and Ukrainian Orthodoxy in particular) numbered 15,095, while there were 18,700 adherents of the Ukrainian Catholic faith.
Perhaps the most important development resulting from the indigenization of the Ukrainian population is the high rate of intermarriage with members of other ethnic groups. Consequently, not only were there 76,810 individuals in Saskatchewan in 1981 who identified Ukrainian as their single origin: there were also an additional 23,280 individuals who reported Ukrainian as part of their roots—in effect, multiple origins. In 1996 the total number of single- and multiple-origin Ukrainians was 125,395, representing 12.7% of the provincial population; after Manitoba, this is the second highest percentage among provinces. In 2001, Saskatoon, Regina, Yorkton, Prince Albert, Canora, North Battleford registered the greatest number of Ukrainian residents, although a number of towns and villages continue to have large concentrations of Ukrainian inhabitants, notably Kamsack, Ituna, Wynyard, Hafford, and Wakaw. As for single- and multiple-origin Ukrainians, the total number decreased slightly in 2001 to 121,740 individuals. Currently, the Ukrainian community is the sixth largest in the province.
The steady out-migration by Ukrainian origin people from Saskatchewan has been significant, the vast majority leaving for British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Nevertheless, a long history and the continuing presence of relatively large numbers in the province have provided a foundation for a strong and thriving organized community. For example, the Saskatchewan Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, an umbrella organization that promotes the interests of the community, represented in 2004 some 209 active Ukrainian organizations. Meanwhile, the community boasts forty-four Ukrainian dance groups, four choral groups, and three museums. Since 1973, the Ukrainian community in Saskatoon has organized the popular Vesna festival, an annual event showcasing Ukrainian Canadian arts and culture. Other significant developments include a publicly funded bilingual program at both elementary and secondary levels, which has been in existence since 1979. The University of Saskatchewan continues to serve as an important centre of higher learning in the field of Ukrainian Studies with the creation in 1998 of the Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage. The New Community Credit Union was created in 1939 as the first Ukrainian credit union in Canada and remains active; and the Mohyla and Sheptytsky institutes were established in 1916 and 1953 respectively, providing an enriched cultural environment for Ukrainian university graduates.