By the mid-1800s, that big open space on the map began to interest both the British and the American governments. You see, Canada belonged to Britain. The British had ignored Western Canada up till now, but rumours were starting that the Americans were looking north to Canada as a possible source of more lands and more riches.
In 1857, Captain John Palliser along with a geologist, botanist, astronomer and surveyor, set out to explore the Canadian West. They reported back that the west could be settled and farmed. Miners would find coal and minerals. A railway could cross the mountains. The map produced by the Palliser Expedition was the most useful for many years to come.
The British government sent Sir William Butler to explore the west in 1870. He returned with similar information and a warning that Americans were already trading on Canadian lands.