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Yukon Territory


There’s evidence that humans were eating animals in the Yukon some 15, 000 to 30, 000 years ago, depending on your carbon-dating method of choice. However, it’s widely agreed that these people were descended from those who crossed over today’s Siberia while the land bridge was in place. There’s little recorded history otherwise, although it’s known that a volcanic eruption in AD 800 covered much of the southern Yukon in ash. Similarities to the Athapaskan people of the southwest US have suggested that these groups may have left the Yukon after the volcano ruined hunting and fishing.

In the 1840s Robert Campbell, a Hudson’s Bay Company explorer, was the first European to travel the district. Fur traders, prospectors, whalers and missionaries all followed. In 1870 the region became part of the Northwest Territories (NWT). But it was in 1896 when the Yukon literally hit the map after gold was found in a tributary of the Klondike River near what was to become Dawson City. The ensuing gold rush attracted upwards of 40, 000 hopefuls from around the world. Towns sprouted overnight to support the numerous wealth-seekers, who were quite unprepared for the ensuing depravities.

In 1898 the Yukon became a separate territory, with Dawson City as its capital. Building the Alaska Hwy (Hwy 1) in 1942 opened up the territory to development. In 1953 Whitehorse became the capital, because it had the railway and the highway. Mining continues to be the main industry, followed by tourism.