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Yukon ( ), (or The Yukon), is the westernmost and smallest of Canadamarker's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon Rivermarker, Yukon meaning "Great River" in Gwich’in.

The territory was created in 1898 as the Yukon Territory. The federal government's most recent update of the Yukon Act in 2003 confirmed "Yukon", rather than "Yukon Territory", as the current usage standard.

At 5,959 metres (19,551 ft), Yukon's Mount Loganmarker, in Kluane National Park and Reservemarker, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second highest of North America (after Mount McKinleymarker in the U.S. state of Alaskamarker).

Geography and ecology

Map of the Yukon.

The sparsely populated Yukon abounds with snow-melt lakes and perennial snow-capped mountains. Although the climate is Arctic and subarctic and very dry, with long, cold winters, the long sunshine hours in short summer allow hardy crops and vegetables, along with a profusion of flowers and fruit to blossom.

The territory is the approximate shape of a right triangle, bordering the U.S. state of Alaskamarker to the west for 1,210 km (752 miles) mostly along longitude 141° W, the Northwest Territoriesmarker to the east and British Columbiamarker to the south. Its northern coast is on the Beaufort Seamarker. Its ragged eastern boundary mostly follows the divide between the Yukon Basin and the Mackenzie Rivermarker drainage basin to the east in the Mackenzie mountains. Its capital is Whitehorsemarker.

Canada's highest point, Mount Logan ( ), is found in the territory's southwest. Mount Logan and a large part of the Yukon's southwest are in Kluane National Park and Reservemarker, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other national parks include Ivvavik National Parkmarker and Vuntut National Parkmarker in the north.

Most of the territory is in the watershed of its namesake, the Yukon River. The southern Yukon is dotted with a large number of large, long and narrow glacier-fed alpine lakes, most of which flow into the Yukon River system. The larger lakes include Teslin Lakemarker, Atlin Lakemarker, Tagish Lakemarker, Marsh Lakemarker, Lake Labergemarker, Kusawa Lakemarker and Kluane Lakemarker. Bennett Lakemarker on the Klondike Gold Rush trail is a lake flowing into Nares Lake, with the greater part of its area within the Yukon.

Other watersheds include the Mackenzie River and the AlsekmarkerTatshenshinimarker, as well as a number of rivers flowing directly into the Beaufort Sea. The two main Yukon rivers flowing into the Mackenzie in the Northwest Territories are the Liard Rivermarker in the southeast and the Peel Rivermarker and its tributaries in the northeast.

Notable widespread tree species within the Yukon are the Black Spruce and White Spruce. Many trees are stunted because of the short growing season and severe climate.

The capital, Whitehorsemarker, is also the largest city, with about two-thirds of the population; the second largest is Dawson Citymarker, (pop. 1,250) which was the capital until 1952.


Richardson Mountains in the background
Long before the arrival of Europeans, central and northern Yukon escaped glaciation as it was part of Beringia (Bering land bridge). The volcanic eruption of Mount Churchillmarker near the Alaskamarker border blanketed southern Yukon with a layer of ash which can still be seen along the Klondike Highway. Coastal and inland First Nations already had extensive trading networks and European incursions into the area only began early in the 19th century with the fur trade, followed by missionaries and the Western Union Telegraph Expedition.

By the end of the 19th century gold miners were trickling in on rumours of gold, driving a population increase justifying the setting up of a police force, just in time for the start of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. The increased population coming with the gold rush led to the separation of the Yukon district from the Northwest Territories and the formation of the separate Yukon Territory in 1898.



According to the 2001 Canadian census, the largest ethnic group in Yukon is English (27.1%), followed by First Nations (22.3%), Scottish (21.9%), Irish (19.1%), German (14.3%), and French (13.4%) – although over a quarter of all respondents also identified their ethnicity as "Canadian."

Yukon's eight First Nations linguistic groupings and 14 tribes/clans
Linguistic Grouping Tribe
Gwich’in Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Old Crowmarker
Han Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, Dawson Citymarker
Upper Tanana White River First Nation, Beaver CreekmarkerSmall communities near Tokmarker ( Alaskamarker)
Northern Tutchone Selkirk First NationLittle Salmon/Carmacks First Nation

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Mayomarker
Southern Tutchone Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Haines Junctionmarker

Kluane First Nation, Burwash Landingmarker

Ta'an Kwach'an Council, Lake Labergemarker

Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Whitehorsemarker
Kaska Ross River Dena Council, Ross RivermarkerLiard River First Nation, Watson Lakemarker
Inland Tlingit Teslin Tlingit Council
Tagish Carcross/Tagish First Nation


The 2006 Canadian census showed a population of 30,372.

Of the 29,940 singular responses to the census question concerning 'mother tongue' the most commonly reported languages were:
1. English 25,655 85.69%
2. French 1,105 3.69%
3. German 775 2.59%
4. Chinese 260 0.87%
5. Tagalog 145 0.48%
6. Dutch 140 0.47%
7. Spanish 130 0.43%
8. Vietnamese 105 0.35%
9. Hungarian 80 0.27%
10. Punjabi 80 0.27%
11. Gwich'in 75 0.25%
12. Tlingit 70 0.11%
13. Yakuts (Sakha) 65 0.11%
There were also 130 responses of both English and a 'non-official language'; 10 of both French and a 'non-official language'; 110 of both English and French; and about 175 people who either did not respond to the question, or reported multiple non-official languages, or else gave some other unenumerated response. Yukon's official languages are shown in bold. Figures shown are for the number of single-language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.

The Language Act of Yukon "recognises the significance" of aboriginal languages in Yukon; however, only English and French are available for laws, court proceedings, and legislative assembly proceedings.


Yukon's population is highly secularized. The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were the Roman Catholic Church with 5,985 (21 %); the Anglican Church of Canada with 3,795 (13 %); and the United Church of Canada with 2,105 (7 %).


Yukon's historical major industry has been mining (lead, zinc, silver, gold, asbestos and copper). The government acquired the land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870 and split it from the Northwest Territoriesmarker in 1898 to fill the need for local government created by the population influx of the gold rush.

Thousands of these prospectors flooded the territory, creating a colourful period recorded by authors such as Robert W. Service and Jack London. The memory of this period and the early days of the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker, as well as the territory's scenic wonders and outdoor recreation opportunities, makes tourism the second most important industry.

Manufacturing, including furniture, clothing, and handicrafts, follows in importance, along with hydroelectricity. The traditional industries of trapping and fishing have declined. Today, the government sector is by far the biggest employer in the territory, directly employing approximately 5,000 out of a labour force of 12,500.


The Yukon Sign
Yukon's tourism motto is "Larger than life". The Yukon's major appeal is its nearly pristine nature. Tourism relies heavily on this, and there are many organised outfitters and guides available to hunters and anglers and nature lovers of all sorts. Sports enthusiasts can paddle lakes and rivers with canoes and kayaks, ride or walk trails, ski or snowboard in an organized setting or access the backcountry by air or snowmobile, climb the highest peaks of North America or take a family hike up smaller mountains, or try ice climbing and dog sledding. Yukon also has a wide array of cultural and sporting events and infrastructures that attract artists, participants and tourists from all parts of the world (Yukon International Storytelling Festival, Frostbite Music Festival, Dawson Music Festival, Yukon Quest, Sourdough Rendezvous, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, Northern Lights Centre, Klondike Gold Rush memorials and activities, "Takhini Hot Springs", and the Whitehorse fish ladder.

There are many opportunities to experience pre-colonial lifestyles by learning about Yukon's First Nations. Wildlife and nature observation is exceptional and a wide variety of large mammals, birds, and fish are easily accessible, whether or not within Yukon's many territorial parks (Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park, Tombstone Territorial Park, Fishing Branch Ni'iinlii'njik Park, Coal River Springs Territorial Park) and national parks (Kluane National Park and Reservemarker, Vuntut National Parkmarker, Ivvavik National Parkmarker) and reserves, or nearby Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Parkmarker in British Columbiamarker.

On the long, cold, and clear nights of winter, nature provides the ultimate natural spectacle in the form of aurora borealis.


Before modern forms of transportation, the rivers and mountain passes were the main transportation routes for the coastal Tlingit people trading with the Athabascans of which the Chilkoot Passmarker and Dalton Trail, as well as the first Europeans.

From the Gold Rush until the 1950s, riverboats plied the Yukon River, mostly between Whitehorse and Dawson City, with some making their way further to Alaska and over to the Bering Seamarker, and other tributaries of Yukon River such as the Stewart Rivermarker. Most of the riverboats were owned by the British-Yukon Navigation Company, an arm of the White Pass and Yukon Route, which also operated a narrow gauge railway between Skagway, Alaskamarker, and Whitehorse. The railway ceased operation in the 1980s with the first closure of the Faromarker mine. It is now run during the summer months for the tourism season, with operations as far as Carcrossmarker.

Today, major land routes include the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway (between Skagway and Dawson City), the Haines Highway (between Haines, Alaskamarker, and Haines Junctionmarker), and the Dempster Highway (linking Inuvik, Northwest Territoriesmarker to the Klondike Highway), all paved except for the Dempster. Other highways with less traffic include the "Robert Campbell Highway" link ing Carmacksmarker (on the Klondike Highway) to Watson Lakemarker (Alaska Highway) via Faro and Ross Rivermarker, and the "Silver Trail" linking the old silver mining communities of Mayomarker, Elsamarker and Keno Citymarker to the Klondike Highway at the Stewart River bridge. Air travel is the only way to reach the far north community of Old Crow.

Whitehorse International Airportmarker serves as the air transport infrastructure hub, with direct flights to Vancouvermarker, Calgarymarker, Edmontonmarker, Fairbanksmarker, and Frankfurtmarker (summer months). Every Yukon community is served by an airport. The communities of Dawson City, Old Crow, and Inuvik, have regular passenger service through Air North. Air charter businesses exist primarily to serve the tourism and mining exploration industries.

Government and politics

Chief Isaac of the Han, Yukon Territory, ca. 1898
In the 19th century, Yukon was a segment of the Hudson's Bay Company-administered North-Western Territory and then the Canadian-administered Northwest Territories. It only obtained a recognizable local government in 1895 when it became a separate district of the Northwest Territories. In 1898, it was made a separate territory with its own commissioner and appointed Territorial Council.

Prior to 1979, the territory was administered by the commissioner who was appointed by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The commissioner used to chair and had a role in appointing the territory's Executive Council and had a day to day role in governing the territory. The elected Territorial Council had a purely advisory role. In 1979, a significant degree of power was devolved from the federal government and commissioner to the territorial legislature which, in that year, adopted a party system of responsible government. This was done through a letter from Jake Epp, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development rather than through formal legislation.

In preparation for responsible government, political parties were organised and ran candidates to the Yukon Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1978. The Progressive Conservatives won these elections and formed the first party government of Yukon in January 1979. The Yukon New Democratic Party (NDP) formed the government from 1985 to 1992 under Tony Penikett and again from 1996 under Piers McDonald until being defeated in 2000. The conservatives returned to power in 1992 under John Ostashek after having renamed themselves the Yukon Party. The Liberal government of Pat Duncan was defeated in elections in November 2002, with Dennis Fentie of the Yukon Party forming the government as Premier.

The Yukon Act, passed on April 1, 2003, formalised the powers of the Yukon government and devolved additional powers to the territorial government (e.g., control over land and natural resources). As of 2003, other than criminal prosecutions, the Yukon government has much of the same powers as provincial governments, and the other two territories are looking to obtaining the same powers. Today the role of commissioner is analogous to that of a provincial lieutenant governor; however, unlike lieutenant-governors, commissioners are not formal representatives of the Queen but are employees of the federal government.

Although there has been discussion in the past about Yukon becoming Canada's 11th province, it is generally felt that its population base is too sparse for this to occur at present.

At the federal level, the territory is presently represented in the Parliament of Canadamarker by a single Member of Parliament and one senator. Canadian territories' members of Parliament are full and equal voting representatives and residents of the territory enjoy the same rights as other Canadian citizens. One Yukon Member of Parliament — Erik Nielsen — was the Deputy Prime Minister under the government of Brian Mulroney, while another — Audrey McLaughlin — was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

Yukon was one of nine jurisdictions in Canada to offer same-sex marriage before the passage of Canada's Civil Marriage Act.

Federal government representation

In the Canadian House of Commons, Yukon is represented by Larry Bagnell, representing the Liberal Party. Mr. Bagnell was first elected to the House of Commons in 2000. Previous Members of Parliament include Louise Hardy (NDP, 1997–2000), Audrey McLaughlin (NDP, 1987–1997), Erik Nielsen (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1957–1987), James Aubrey Simmons (Liberal, 1949–1957).

Yukon has been represented by two Senators since the position was created in 1975. The Senate of Canada position is currently held by Daniel Lang, who was appointed on 22 December 2008. It was previously filled by Ione Christensen, representing the Liberal Party. Appointed to the Senate in 1999 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Mrs. Christensen resigned in December 2006 to help her ailing husband. From 1975 to 1999, Paul Lucier (Liberal) served as Senator for the Yukon. Lucier was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

First Nations governments

Much of the population of the territory is First Nations. An umbrella land claim agreement representing 7,000 members of fourteen different First Nations was signed with the federal government in 1992. Each of the individual First Nations then has to negotiate a specific land claim and a self-government agreement. As of December 2005, eleven of the 14 First Nations had a signed agreement. The fourteen First Nation governments are:
Government Seat Chief
Carcross/Tagish First Nation Carcrossmarker Khà Shâde Héni Mark Wedge
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Haines Junctionmarker Diane Strand
First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun Mayomarker Simon Mervyn
Kluane First Nation Burwash Landingmarker Robert Dickson
Kwanlin Dün First Nation Whitehorsemarker Mike Smith
Liard River First Nation Watson Lakemarker Liard McMillan
Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation Carmacksmarker Eddie Skookum
Ross River Dena Council Ross Rivermarker Jack Caesar
Selkirk First Nation Pelly Crossingmarker Darren Isaac
Ta'an Kwach'an Council Whitehorse Ruth Massie
Teslin Tlingit Council Teslinmarker Peter Johnston
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation Dawson Citymarker Darren Taylor
Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Old Crowmarker Joe Linklater
White River First Nation Beaver Creekmarker David Johnny

The territory once had an Inuit settlement, located on Herschel Islandmarker off the Arcticmarker coast. This settlement was dismantled in 1987 and its inhabitants relocated to the neighboring Northwest Territories. As a result of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, the island is now a territorial park and is known officially as Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park, Qikiqtaruk being the name of the island in Inuvialuktun. There are also 14 First Nations that speak 8 different languages.


Ten largest communities by population
Community 2006 Population 2001 Population 1996 Population
Whitehorsemarker 20,461 (city)22,898 (metro) 19,058 (city)21,405 (metro) 19,157 (city)21,808 (metro)
Dawsonmarker 1,327 1,251 1,287
Watson Lakemarker 846 912 993
Haines Junctionmarker 589 531 574
Carmacksmarker 425 431 466
Ibex Valleymarker1 376 315 322
Mount Lornemarker1 370 379 399
Ross Rivermarker 313 337 352
Pelly Crossingmarker 296 328 238
Mayomarker 248 366 324
1 Part of "Metro" Whitehorse Census Agglomeration

See also



  • Ken S. Coates and William R. Morrison (1988). Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton. ISBN 0-88830-331-9

External links

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