Yukon Territory - Larger than life
Written by: Wendy Wiliams (a.k.a. Mom!)
The name Yukon comes from the Gwitch’in word Yu-kun-ah meaning big (Yukon) river. The territory has Alaska as a western border and British Columbia as a southern border. To the east, lies the border of the Northwest Territories. It is home to fantastic displays of aurora borealis or northern lights. The Yukon is a Sub Arctic plateau interspersed with stunning snow-covered mountains and deep valleys except for the Arctic Coastal Plain. The Yukon River drains 65% of the Territory and flows east into the Mackenzie River. The lowest recorded temperature is -60.8* F. The highest recorded temperature is 36.1* F.
The short growing season produces boreal forests, many native plants and over 200 species of wildflowers. Mammals are: grizzly bears, moose, caribou and mountain sheep.
Yukon and Alaska have the oldest inhabitants in Canada who probably traversed the land bridge that once surfaced in the Bering Strait. Some of the Aboriginal people are: Nahanni, Teslin, Tutchone, Tlingit, Gwitch’in and Inuit. Other inhabitants are: English, Scottish, Irish and German. The Inuit have a language distinct from other Yukon Aboriginal people. The Inuit subsisted on fish and sea mammals. Contact with the Europeans resulted in decimated populations due to small pox.
The Yukon’s beautiful National Parks include: Kluane, Ivvavik, Cold River Springs and Vuntut. Some conservation protections have been instituted to protect the wildlife although there has been increasing pressure to lease oil fields for production in the caribou calving grounds.
In the late 19th century, The Klondike Gold Rush, based in Dawson City, inflated the population for several years with gold seekers. Hopeful miners arrived through Skagway and the upper Yukon River. Others, took the “Overland Route” via Edmonton and the McKenzie or Peace Rivers. At that time, Dawson was the largest city west of Winnipeg. Other Yukon minerals are: gold, lead, zinc and silver.
Four hydro electric supplies are based in Whitehorse, Aishihik, Mayo and Fish Lake. Fisheries harvest whitefish, salmon and trout for local consumption. The rugged terrain originally inhibited economic development. Today, the Haines Road , the Dempster Highway and other roads provide transportation and supply routes.
Education in the Yukon is based on the B.C. curriculum. Some schools offer French immersion and instruction in various local First Nations languages. Yukon College is situated in Whitehorse with networked systems for other communities. The Yukon School of Visual Arts is located in Dawson City. Other degree programs are networked with the University of Regina, Saskatchewan.
Yukon celebrates it history and background with exciting festivals and Aboriginal arts and crafts. The Yukon Arts Centre features a collection of Yukon and Canadian art and is located at Yukon College.
Four famous people who have called The Yukon home are: author, Pierre Berton, RCMP, Sam Steele, poet, Robert Service, and novelist, Jack London.
Visitors to The Yukon should plan to experience the winter Sourdough Rendevous, the Yukon Quest annual dogsled race, the Dawson Discovery Day and the Arctic Winter Olympics. Fort Selkirk and Forty Mile offer abandoned fur trading and mining sites. Another popular destination is the Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park where visitors can walk the Chilkoot Trail through the mountains from Skagway.
Explore the possibilities of “The Land of the Midnight Sun”.