The Yukon (it no longer calls itself “Yukon Territory”) lies in Canada’s northwest corner, bordered on the south by British Columbia, on the west by the American state of Alaska and on the east by the Northwest Territories and covers 483,450 square kilometres. Located above the Arctic Circle, the Yukon is known as “the land of the midnight sun” because for three months in summer, daylight is almost continuous. In the winter, however, darkness sets in and the light of day is not seen for a quarter of the year.
Yukon was the first area in Canada to be settled by people, as the ancestors of the Amerindians migrated from Asia over the Bering Strait 10,000 to 25,000 years ago. The first European explorers were Russians who traveled along the coast in the 1680s and traded with the Indians. American traders arrived after the 1867 Russian sale of Alaska to the United States. When gold was discovered near Dawson City in 1896, the region’s population was the greatest in northwestern Canada. In 1898, the Yukon Territory was officially established to ensure Canadian jurisdiction. When gold reserves dwindled in the early 1900s, so did population growth.
Today 44,000 people live in the Yukon (2019) with 25,000 of them living in Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city. Aboriginal peoples making up about a quarter of the population. The Yukon’s vast interior forests were long occupied by the Athapaskans, who have six distinct groups: Kutchin, Han, Tutchone, Inland Tlingit, Kaska and Tagish.
Mining is Yukon’s largest industry and accounts for 30 percent of the economy. Tourism, which offers a wilderness experience in a unique and relatively unspoiled environment, plus the history of a century-ago gold rush, is also important. The fur trade is important for about 3 percent of the population, mainly Aboriginals. A small fishing industry operates in Dawson City to export salmon, and other commercial fisheries supply local consumers.