[ter-i-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]
territory, in U.S. history, a portion of the national domain that is given limited self-government, usually in preparation for statehood. Territorial governments have been similar in form to those of the states, but have been subject to greater authority of the federal government. The Ordinance of 1787, adopted by the Congress of the Confederation of the United States to create the Northwest Territory, furnished the basis upon which territorial governments were later organized under the Constitution of the United States. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 raised the problem of the relationship of the United States to newly acquired domains—a subject treated vaguely in the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court, however, established the right of Congress to set up territorial governments and to admit territories to the Union. With the rapid westward expansion of the United States in the 19th cent., and the acquisition of large portions of land through treaty, purchase, and war, Congress shaped territorial boundaries and prescribed government. Territorial governments usually have consisted of a governor, a bicameral legislature, a secretary to keep records, and a system of courts. A territory may be admitted to the Union as a state after its officers petition Congress for an enabling act, establish a constitution, and meet certain requirements (often regarding population) as set forth by the U.S. Congress. Congress itself may initiate such action. Except for the Thirteen Colonies and California, Kentucky, Maine, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia, all the states went through a territorial stage before they were admitted to the Union. The affairs of territories were under the Dept. of State until 1873, when their supervision was given to the Dept. of the Interior. Present U.S. territories include the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. In Canada and Australia a similar portion of the country not yet organized as a province or state is known as a territory.
or Yukon Territory

Territory (pop., 2001 est.: 30,000), northwestern Canada. Bounded by Alaska, U.S., to the west, and the Canadian Northwest Territories to the east and British Columbia to the south, its capital is Whitehorse. Drained by the Yukon River system, it has some of the highest mountains in North America, notably the Saint Elias Mountains and Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak. It was originally settled by American Indians and the Inuit (Eskimo). The first European visitor (1825) was British explorer John Franklin, who was seeking the Northwest Passage. Sporadic settlement occurred thereafter. The discovery of gold in the 1870s later resulted in the Klondike gold rush. In 1898 it was separated from the Northwest Territories and given territorial status. The economic boost from the gold rush soon abated, and the exploitation of other minerals expanded and continued throughout the 20th century. Its economic mainstays, though, are government services and tourism.

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Territory (pop., 2006: 192,898), northern Australia. It covers an area of some 520,902 sq mi (1,349,129 sq km). Its capital is Darwin; the only other sizable town is Alice Springs. Most of the people are of European descent; about one-fifth are Australian Aboriginals. It consists mainly of tableland, with the Simpson Desert in the southeast and the Arnhem Land plateau in the north. It was inhabited by Aboriginals for thousands of years; they held Ayers Rock (Uluru) as central to their culture. The coast was explored by the Dutch in the 17th century and surveyed in the early 19th century by Matthew Flinders. First included as part of New South Wales, it was annexed to South Australia in 1863. It reverted to being under direct control of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1911. The northern parts were bombed by the Japanese in World War II and occupied by Allied troops. It was granted self-government within the Commonwealth in 1978. It remains sparsely inhabited; its economy rests on cattle farming, mining, government services, and a growing tourism industry.

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Former territory, U.S. West, including most of modern Oklahoma. The Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Chickasaw tribes were forcibly moved to this area between 1830 and 1843, and an 1834 act set aside the land as Indian country. In 1866 its western half was ceded to the U.S.; this portion was opened to white settlers in 1889 and became the Territory of Oklahoma in 1890. The two territories were united and admitted to the Union as the state of Oklahoma in 1907.

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Political entity (pop., 2006: 324,034), southeastern Australia. A capital territory was mandated by the 1901 Australian constitution; the site was chosen in 1908. It lies within New South Wales and consists of Canberra and the area around Jervis Bay. Parliament moved there from Melbourne in 1927. In 1989 the Territory received responsibility for self-government similar to that held by Australian states.

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A territory (from the word 'terra', meaning 'land') is a defined area (including land and waters), considered to be a possession of a person, organization, institution, animal, state or country subdivision. The word can mean:

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