Yukon takes its name from the GWICH'IN name Yu-kun-ah for the "great river" which drains most of its area. Lying in the northwestern corner of Canada's continental mainland, isolated by rugged mountains, it shares a common border and many characteristics with its American neighbour, Alaska.
Yukon takes its name from the GWICH'IN name Yu-kun-ah for the "great river" which drains most of its area. Lying in the northwestern corner of Canada's continental mainland, isolated by rugged mountains, it shares a common border and many characteristics with its American neighbour, Alaska. Historically, it is indelibly associated with the great KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH.
Land and Resources
Geographically the bulk of the Yukon is a subarctic plateau interspersed by mountains. The major exception is the Arctic Coastal Plain, a narrower eastward continuation of the same region in Alaska, which slopes down to the BEAUFORT SEA from the British Mountains inland.
The Yukon constitutes the northernmost part of the Cordilleran region. It is geologically very complex but includes 3 parallel sectors oriented northwest-southeast. In the east, folded sedimentary Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations are set off sharply from the Mackenzie Valley by great faults. The middle sector includes sedimentaries, metamorphics and volcanics ranging from Precambrian to Mesozoic age. Massive plutonic Mesozoic and Tertiary granites make up the core of the western sector.
In 2001 the population of the Yukon was 28 674, a decrease of 6.8% from 1996; by 2004 it was estimated that the population was back up to the 1996 level. One of the characteristics of both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories is the transient nature of much of the non-native population. Many workers, attracted by high wages, plan to stay for a short time and return "outside." The labour force includes a disproportionate number of young single men and recent immigrants. Many companies encourage married workers through assistance in family housing.
Primary resource extraction has always been the foundation of the Yukon economy. Furs, the original trading commodity, continue to be harvested and exported. Although of declining importance to the economy overall, the fur harvest remains a vital source of income. During a brief but hectic period at the turn of the century an active Arctic WHALING industry was based on HERSCHEL ISLAND, the only sheltered harbour along the Yukon's Arctic coast.
The economy is vulnerable to reversals in mining, which comprises more than 30% of the territory's economic base. The closure of all major mines in the Yukon in the 1980s because of depressed world markets and depleting resources resulted in a serious economic crisis and a decline of population. By 1986, the situation had begun to rebound with the reopening of the Yukon's major lead-zinc mine and the setting of a 30-year record in placer gold production. In 1987, the placer industry achieved a 70-year record and other hardrock gold mines went into production in the late 1980s.
The 1990s were no less turbulent with the closing of the Faro mine once again - as well as the Watson Lake mine - due to an event on the other side of Canada, the Westray coal mine explosion near Plymouth, NS. Curragh Inc, which owned all 3 mines, went into bankruptcy following the disaster. The Faro mine was sold and commenced operations in 1995, only to shut down in 1998. The territory again relies on gold, with a new and an existing gold mine beginning production in 1996 as well as the numerous placer mines.
Government and Politics
The Yukon moved towards self-government earlier than the NWT. The first territorial government consisted of a federally appointed commissioner (James WALSH being the first) and a similarly appointed council, located in Dawson City.
Unlike the NWT councils from 1905 to 1967, Yukon's appointed officials were all resident in the territory. As early as 1899 the Act was amended to provide for 2 elected members of council to be added, and in 1902, 3 more. In 1908 a fully elected council of 10 members was established. Dwindling population resulted in the council being abolished in 1918; in the face of local protest it was reinstated in 1919, but only as a 3-member elected council.
The office of commissioner disappeared after 1916 as its duties were assumed by the gold commissioner of the territory. Further changes did not occur until after WWII when the territory's population increased. In 1948 legal provision was made for the reappointment of a commissioner as chief executive officer of the Yukon, along with the installation of several other appointed territorial officers. In 1951 the council was increased to 5 elected members, and subsequent additions have expanded it to 17.
From 1970 to 1979 the federally appointed commissioner chaired an executive committee consisting first of appointed officials and representatives of the legislative assembly (former council) and in its later stages of the deputy commissioner and 5 elected members from the legislative assembly. In 1979 an executive council of 5 elected members functioning as a Cabinet superseded the former executive committee; it now reports to the government leader instead of to the commissioner. (Party politics were introduced to the Yukon assembly for the first time in 1978.) SeeYUKON GOVERNMENT LEADERS: TABLE; COMMISSIONERS, GOLD COMMISSIONERS AND CONTROLLERS OF YUKON: TABLE.
Like provincial governments, the Yukon government is responsible for such things as education, social services, tax collection, most highways and community services. Unlike the provinces, however, the Yukon had no authority over natural resources, with the exception of wildlife; royalties derived from resource development were paid to Ottawa. Resource management programs, including those in forestry, mines and land, have gradually been transferred or devolved from the federal to the territorial government.
In 1999 there were 28 elementary and secondary schools serving the needs of 5898 students from kindergarten to grade 12. There are no public school boards. Administration is centralized in the Department of Education. Each school has an elected school council, which has a good deal of power in the hiring and evaluation of the school's principal, and the development of rules and planning for its particular school. A school council also advises on matters such as bus schedules and local curriculum. Under the Education Act (1990), these school councils may eventually evolve into full school boards.
Yukon school curriculum is based on the BC curriculum with modifications to reflect local purposes. There is a French First language school in Whitehorse. French immersion is offered in the capital for grades 1 through 12 as is a Roman Catholic education from kindergarten to grade 9. Instruction is also offered in various communities in seven different First Nations languages, and First Nations input, on a variety of educational matters, is coordinated through a First Nations Education Commission.
Post-secondary education programs are delivered through Yukon College's main campus in Whitehorse, and its network of 13 community campuses in 12 communities. Students can obtain their first 2 years of university-level education through Yukon College or they can enroll in a variety of specialized diploma and trade programs. In 1999 the college served over 884 full-time and 5214 part-time students.
There are also degree programs offered in cooperation with other institutions, such as a Bachelor of Social Work or a Yukon Native Teacher Education Program, both with the U of Regina. Financial assistance is available for students who pursue their post-secondary education at approved institutions outside the Yukon.
Native culture in the Yukon has been severely altered by the whaling era at Herschel Island, the Klondike Gold Rush, the construction of the Alaska Highway and modern communications. There has been a recent renaissance in native cultural traditions and crafts.
The Yukon native peoples all belong to the Na-Dene linguistic phylum. They included the Nahanni in the east (with Kaska, Goat and Mountain groups), and several groups in the south and west (Teslin, Tutchone, Tagish, etc). The latter had a greater variety of food sources, including salmon, but were often dominated by the fierce coastal Tlingit, to the extent that some adopted the Tlingit language. In the central and northern Yukon, the GWICH'IN occupied the basin of the Yukon River downstream from the mouth of the Pelly River, including the Porcupine River area to the north, and also the Peel River basin in the northeast.
The geologic structure is reflected in a similar physiographic subdivision into plateau and mountain regions, all of which continue westwards into Alaska. In detail there are significant variations within each major physiographic region. The high central Yukon Plateau, at an average elevation of 1200 m, is interrupted frequently by local mountain areas and deep valleys - many of the latter strikingly aligned northwest-southeast, reflecting the structure. The 2400 m Ogilvie Mountains on the north separate it from the Porcupine Plateau, which is delineated on the north and east by the British and Richardson Mountains, respectively.
On the east the Yukon Plateau is bounded by the Selwyn and Mackenzie mountains. On the south an area of lower terrain near the 60th parallel separates it from the mountainous areas of northern BC. In the southwestern Yukon the spectacular St Elias and Coast mountains include Canada's highest mountains, many over 4600 m, with Mount LOGAN (5959 m) the highest in Canada. Many are covered by extensive permanent ice caps - the largest nonpolar icefields in North America - and effectively cut off direct access to the Pacific Ocean despite its relative proximity.
Over 65% of the territory is drained by the YUKON RIVER system, including the Porcupine River basin north of the Ogilvie Mountains. The 2 major exceptions are the Peel River, which drains a lesser plateau in the northeast, and the LIARD RIVER in the lower-lying plain sector in the southeast. These rivers drain into the MACKENZIE RIVER to the east. Included in the Yukon headwaters are magnificent elongated glacial lakes along the eastern edge of the St Elias Mountains.
The Yukon includes a large area in the north and northwest that was never covered by Pleistocene ice sheets, despite its northern latitude. PERMAFROST is continuous north of the Porcupine River, and discontinuous but widespread through the rest of the territory. As in the NWT, the latter condition results in finely balanced biotic conditions and poses problems for construction and ground transportation.
All the Yukon except the Arctic Coastal Plain and the higher mountains lies below the TREELINE but approximately 40% is not treed, and only 15% is productive forest. The area south of Dawson is fairly well forested, at least in the river valleys, with the best stands in the moist eastern sectors, especially the Liard valley. It forms part of the BOREAL FOREST region, including such trees as spruce, pine, aspen, poplar and birch.
The climate of the Yukon is continental, with its mountain ramparts sealing it off from most direct contact with the moderating Pacific Ocean. Winters are very cold most of the time, with the lowest temperature ever recorded in Canada (-62.8°C) at Snag, northwest of Kluane Lake, in February 1947. At times, Pacific air may edge into the southwestern sectors resulting in short intervals of milder temperatures.
Summers are warm and frequently hot (35°C has been recorded at Dawson) but cooler air from the Arctic can push southward. Precipitation is generally low because the high mountains in the southwest seal off access to the moister air.
Yukon's big game animals, furbearers, birds and fish have sustained Yukon's Native people for thousands of years, and continue to do so, especially in remote communities such as OLD CROW. Yukon's wildlife resources, which fall under the jurisdiction of the territorial government, are also valued by other residents and by tourists, particularly big game hunters. The Yukon has some of North America's largest populations of GRIZZLY BEARS and Dall's sheep. Moose, black bears and wolves are other important species.
The Yukon provides critical habitat for migratory birds, such as trumpeter swans and BIRDS OF PREY. The barren-ground Porcupine caribou herd, estimated at 200 000 animals, migrates between Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Pacific salmon ascend the Yukon River and its tributaries from Norton Sound, in Alaska.
Minerals, such as gold, zinc, lead and silver, remain the territory's most economic nonrenewable resources. Difficult access and rugged terrain have deterred mineral development in the past; however, the Yukon now has a highly developed road system with year-round access to tidewater. New government assistance programs have also spurred exploration and development.
It has been estimated that about 350 MW of hydro power resources are available in the Yukon, primarily on the Yukon River and its tributaries; however, development would involve flooding many of the valleys in which wildlife resources and population are located.
Yukon's historic and spectacular scenic attractions are important tourism resources. KLUANE NATIONAL PARK in the southwest includes Canada's highest mountain, Mount Logan, and part of what has been called the largest nonpolar ice field in the world outside the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as grizzly bears and Dall's sheep. The first territorial park was established in 1987 on Herschel Island, and includes archaeological sites of early aboriginal residents as well as whaling era artifacts. Coal River Springs, established 3 years later, is a thermal spring with dramatic descending series of limestone terraces.
The IVVAVIK NATIONAL PARK was established in July 1984, under the terms of the Inuvialuit Land Claim, to protect critical habitats of the Porcupine caribou herd and certain species of migratory birds. The caribou herd and other wildlife populations of the area are valued subsistence resources for northern aboriginal people. VUNTUT NATIONAL PARK lying above Ivvavik, was established in 1993 to protect the remainder of the Porcupine Caribou's habitat as well as habitat for barren ground caribou.
A federal-territorial agreement to manage the Porcupine caribou herd was signed in 1985; 2 years later Canada and the US signed an international treaty for the conservation of the herd. There is growing pressure within the US, however, to allow oil and gas leasing within the herd's calving grounds in Alaska, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2002, the U.S. Senate voted against President Bush's proposal to explore in the Refuge.
Nearly three-quarters of all Yukoners live in 3 centres, and 2 out of 3 live in WHITEHORSE. Whitehorse (pop 19 058, 2001c), the territorial capital, is the transportation, business and service centre for the territory. DAWSON was the capital until 1951 and has dwindled to a population of some 1200, based on gold mining in the area and on tourism. Watson Lake on the ALASKA HIGHWAY is the service centre for the southeastern Yukon. FARO, developed in response to the nearby zinc-lead mine (1969-97), was also one of the territories larger communities but has seen a shrinking population since the mine's closure.
Yukon native peoples comprised at least 22% of the population in 2001. There were 5075 registered in 16 bands within the territory. Self-government and land claims settlement legislation have been unanimously passed by the Yukon Legislative Assembly. An Umbrella Final Agreement, along with final agreements and SELF-GOVERNMENT agreements with 4 of the bands (First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Champagne and Aishihik FIRST NATIONS, Teslin Tlingit Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation), was signed on 29 May 1993. Royal assent was given to the 2 pieces of legislation the following year and by the government of Canada in 1995. Agreements have since been signed with 5 other bands: Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Selkirk First Nation, Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Kluane First Nation and Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. Negotiations with the remaining First Nations continues (seeLAND CLAIMS).
Farming was significant at the time of the gold rush, but it subsequently was negligible because of high costs, low profits, marginal soil, climatic restrictions, topography and improved transportation which lowered the price of agricultural imports. Aided by new technologies and favourable government policy, agriculture has showed slow but steady growth through the 1980s and into the 1990s. It now generates over $2 million for the economy annually.
Forestry is of limited importance, but the Yukon government has recently begun to promote the sector in order to diversify the economy. This sector is currently managed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in co-operation with the Yukon government. The Yukon Forest Strategy was released in October 1998, beginning the process of the complete transfer of managing the territory's forests to the territorial government.
Fish are important to the diet of many Yukon Native people. There is some sportfishing, fish and caviar processing and aquaculture.
The manufacturing sector is steadily contributing more to the territorial economy. Yukon-made goods include furniture, vinyl windows, trusses, printed materials, chocolates, clothing, handicrafts and gold nugget jewellery.
Commercial production of the territory's renewable resources, in forestry, agriculture, fishing, trapping and sport hunting, has increased substantially in recent years. Subsistence fishing and hunting, carried out primarily by Yukon's aboriginal people, represent a vital economic activity, especially in the smaller, rural communities.
Placer gold mining was the mainstay of the Yukon's economy from the time of the Klondike gold rush up until the development of silver and lead mines in the Keno Hill area in the early 1920s. Following WWII, placer gold production dropped off leaving silver and lead as the mainstays. During the 1960s and 1970s, several new mines were developed and production values were dominated by zinc, lead, copper, silver and asbestos.
Following the closure of the asbestos and base metal mines in the late 1970s and early 1980s and rises in the price of gold, there was renewed interest in placer mining, and a couple of small-scale hardrock gold mines operated briefly. There has also been limited production of coal intermittently since the turn of the century.
Production values are now dominated by zinc, lead and silver, but placer gold production continues to be important, with currently about 200 small operations in the territory. There are many large mineral deposits in the Yukon and new mines are currently under development which will likely see significant increases in the production of copper, hardrock gold and silver over the next few years. In 1998 gold was worth $80 million, silver $87 million, lead $7.3 million and zinc $22 million.
Tourism has become an increasingly important industry. Along with government, it largely sustained the Yukon economy during recent slumps in mining. Tourism is the second most important industry in the Yukon. Visitors are drawn by the Yukon's colourful GOLD RUSH history, its Native heritage and its scenic and wildlife attractions. Dawson contains many reconstructed buildings and artifacts from its flamboyant era at the turn of the century.
Recently, American and Canadian national parks services have co-operated in developing the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park, including the Chilkoot Trail through the southwestern mountains from Skagway, Alaska. Whitehorse puts on an annual winter festival, "Sourdough Rendezvous," and Dawson celebrates Discovery Day. The territory also hosts the ARCTIC WINTER GAMES every 6 years.
Centennial celebrations commemorating the Klondike have greatly increased the number of visitors to the territory. In 1999 there were over 372 000 visitors to the Yukon (a large percentage passing through on their way to or from Alaska). Registered outfitters in 22 big-game guiding areas provide for hunters. Other tourist services and campground facilities are available along the Yukon highways. Kluane National Park headquarters is located at Haines Junction and Vuntut National Park in Dawson. Ivvavik National Park has its headquarters in Inuvik, NWT. Native arts and crafts are of growing importance to the local economy.
Transportation in the Yukon was based upon the Yukon River system until the construction of the Alaska Highway in WWII. Shallow-draught, stern-wheeler STEAMBOATS operated seasonally from gold rush days; the main route was between Dawson and Whitehorse where rapids made the latter the effective head of river navigation.
Limited transportation by sleigh or coach was available on winter roads during the closed season. The 175 km narrow gauge WHITE PASS AND YUKON RAILWAY was constructed from tidewater at Skagway, Alaska, through the rugged Coast Mountains to Whitehorse, and was particularly important in exporting minerals from the territory until it was shut down in October 1982.
The transportation pattern and local population distribution were radically altered during WWII. Construction of the Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek, BC and Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1942 included 1014 km through the Yukon via Watson Lake and Whitehorse. There are now nearly 4700 km of roads in the territory.
In 1978 completion of the Haines Road from Carcross and Whitehorse provided the Yukon with its first road access to the Pacific at Skagway, Alaska. In 1979 the DEMPSTER HIGHWAY was completed between Dawson and Inuvik, NWT. Originally conceived as part of the government's "roads to resources" program, the Dempster Highway has helped reduce prices in the Mackenzie Delta area and has encouraged tourism.
New airport facilities were constructed through the southern Yukon during WWII as part of the NORTHWEST STAGING ROUTE from the US to Alaska. Airports and airstrips are now available at most Yukon settlements, including Old Crow in the north. The Whitehorse airport is by far the most important, providing daily scheduled and charter links with Alaska, southern Canada (via Vancouver and Edmonton) and the "lower 48" American states.
Pipelines to transport Arctic Alaskan gas overland to the US inevitably would have to cross the Yukon. The Alaska Highway pipeline proposed in the late 1970s was shelved by political pressures within the US; the recognition of native claims to the land and the environmental impacts of the project; and because of heavy financial costs (seeMACKENZIE VALLEY PIPELINE).
The Yukon assets of the federal Northern Canada Power Commission were transferred to the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corp in 1987. The installed electrical generating capacity is 134 MW, with 77 MW hydro and 57 MW thermal. The major hydro power facilities are at Whitehorse (40 000 kW installed capacity) and on the Aishihik (30 000 kW) and Mayo (5100 kW) rivers. In 1993 the Canada-Yukon Oil and Gas Accord transferred authority and control over onshore oil and gas resources from the federal to the territorial government.
Yukon Energy had a 5-year agreement with another utility Yukon Electrical Company Ltd (YECL) to operate the corporation's assets, purchase the electricity generated and distribute it to the corporation's customers (mainly industrial). YECL serves 18 communities purchasing most of its electrical requirements from Yukon Energy.
The Yukon Territorial Court consists of a chief judge and 2 territorial judges, located in Whitehorse. There are also 23 deputy judges who serve at various locations in the territory. The 2 judges of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory are ex officio judges in the NWT and vice versa, and sit on the Court of Appeal in both territories as well. The remainder of the Supreme Court judges are selected from various provincial courts; the remainder of the Court of Appeal justices are from the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
At the local administrative level there is one city in the Yukon (Whitehorse), 3 towns (Dawson, Faro, Watson Lake), 4 villages (Mayo, Haines Junction, Teslin and Carmacks), 3 hamlets (Elsa, Ibex Valley and Mt Lorne) and another 20 unincorporated communities (including native settlements).
The territorial government shares with the federal government the responsibility for health service. Modern hospitals are located in Whitehorse, Mayo and Watson Lk. The remainder of the territory is served by smaller health centres and nursing stations staffed primarily by a team of public health nurses. Clinics, dental services and a wide range of more specialized medical and social services are also available.
The 2 major political issues are Native land claims and provincial status. The Native peoples of the Yukon have never signed treaties with the federal government. Their Council for Yukon Indians has pressed the case since the 1970s for a land claims settlement with federal government financial assistance. In 1993 an Umbrella Final Agreement was achieved between the federal and territorial governments and the Council that established the terms for finalizing land claims settlements. Self-government agreements have been reached with several Yukon First Nations groups to give them more control over land use and greater authority in areas such as language, health care, social services and education. Provincial status was an issue during the MEECH LAKE and CHARLOTTETOWN constitutional negotiations and remains the most important issue in the Yukon today.
The Yukon Historical and Museums Association offers guided walking tours of Whitehorse heritage buildings in the summer and sponsors a variety of research, publication and public lecture programs. It is the umbrella heritage organization for Yukon community museums and historical societies. The MacBride Museum in Whitehorse is open year round. Other museums in Dawson, Keno, Burwash, Teslin as well as the Old Log Church Museum and Yukon Transportation Museum are open during the summer.
A Yukon Arts Council provides administrative support for cultural organizations and sponsors a program bringing artists into the schools, as well as annual art exhibitions and concerts. The Territorial Library and Archives are located in Whitehorse, with library branches in Dawson, Elsa, Faro, Haines Junction, Mayo, Watson Lake, Teslin and Carcross. The territorial art gallery in the new Yukon Arts Centre located at Yukon College maintains a collection of work by Yukon and Canadian artists, as well as sponsoring regular local and touring exhibitions. There are a number of small theatre groups in Whitehorse.
Five newspapers are published in Yukon (Dawson, Faro, Watson Lake and Whitehorse, and one tri-weekly and one bi-weekly in Whitehorse). Three radio stations and one TV station are located in Whitehorse, with CBC Radio, CHON-FM and CKRW serving most communities by microwave. Live TV is generally available by means of satellite. Telephone and telex services are available throughout the Yukon and an INTERNET node was established in 1994 (seeCOMMUNICATIONS IN THE NORTH).
Archaeological sites near Old Crow and in the northern Yukon attest to the presence of humankind in the territory for thousands of years. Physical evidence of ancient aboriginal life precedes that of early European contact, such as the abandoned fur trading and mining sites at FORT SELKIRK and FORTY MILE on the Yukon River. The bowhead whaling industry and later the fur trade resulted in settlement at Herschel Island on the north coast, designated as the Yukon's first territorial park in 1987. The Klondike River area has Dawson at its heart.
Until WWII the Yukon's lakes and waterways were the primary means of travel in the Yukon. This is reflected by the hundreds of sites located along their length, and by the few beached sternwheelers left from the heyday of river travel. Watson Lake's signposts, started by a homesick American GI in 1943, help tell the story of the construction of the Alaska Highway.
The first lasting contact was made in the 1840s by fur traders of the HBC, using maps and information from early explorers such as Sir John FRANKLIN, who reached Yukon's arctic shore in 1825. Robert Campbell pushed westwards from the Mackenzie River system by way of the upper Liard onto the Pelly River and John BELL moved into the Yukon interior via the Porcupine River. Traders in the interior and whalers on the north coast were followed by missionaries and the North-West Mounted Police in communities such as Fort Selkirk and at Herschel Island.
By the late 19th century, gold prospectors in growing numbers pushed northwards from the Cassiar and Omineca mountains of northern BC. Crossing onto the Yukon watershed they worked their way along the various rivers. Others moved inland from the Bering Sea, following up the Yukon River from its mouth by stern-wheeler.
Several centres of gold mining developed, often for only a brief period. Forty Mile, almost astride the Alaskan boundary, was one. George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charley's discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, on 17 August 1896, however, marked the beginning of what is often considered the world's greatest gold rush. Thousands of newcomers poured into this hitherto remote corner of Canada, transforming the Yukon permanently.
Most of the goldseekers arrived by way of Skagway and the upper Yukon River. Others tried the "Overland Route" from Edmonton, via the Peace or Mackenzie rivers, but few reached their destination. Still others sought an all-American route via Valdez, Alaska, hoping to avoid Canadian government regulations.
Dawson came into existence to serve the influx, at the junction of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, with the actual mining up the nearby creeks. In one month, in 1898, it grew into the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg, developing a complete range of services, including water, sewerage, electricity and telephones. At its peak, the population has been estimated at 16 000. The Yukon was made a separate territory, Dawson named its capital, and a well-integrated transportation system was established through much of the territory.
Whitehorse came into existence as the point where transshipping from rail to river took place, but Dawson was the dominant centre. Between 1897 and 1904, it is estimated that over $100 million in gold was recovered from the creek gravels. The population of Dawson began to decline almost immediately. Newcomers seeking easy riches were soon discouraged and were lured by reports of other gold discoveries (eg, Nome, Alaska in 1899). By 1906 the most easily worked placer mines were finished, leaving claims to be mined by large companies using expensive dredges.
Yukon's economy shifted from gold to other minerals beginning in 1913 when its first hardrock mine started silver and lead production at Keno Hill in the central Yukon. A mill was later established at nearby Elsa with services in the community of Mayo. High fur prices made trapping an important seasonal activity in the 1930s for Native people and prospectors, in the absence of any other industry.
The WWII construction of the Alaska Highway, and the Canol pipeline and road expedited new mineral exploration activity as well as bringing people, services, industries and tourists to the Yukon. With the highway came a permanent non-native population that outnumbered Yukon's indigenous peoples for the first time. Yukon's capital was transferred from Dawson to Whitehorse in 1953, 2 years after the initial announcement. In 1957 a major hydroelectric plant was built in Whitehorse.
The largest economic development in the postwar years was the opening of a major open-pit lead-zinc mine and town at Faro in 1969. Low metal prices and the recession in the mid-1980s resulted in mine closures throughout the Yukon, and increased government efforts to strengthen other economic sectors such as tourism and renewable resource development.
P. Berton, Klondike (1958); K.S. Coates and W.R. Morrison, A History of the Yukon (1988); L.-E. Hamelin, Canadian Nordicity: It's Your North Too (1979); K.M. Lysyk et al, Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry (1977); C. McClellan, Part of the Land, Part of the Water (1987); W.G. MacLeod, The Dempster Highway (1979); D.H. Pimlott et al, eds, Arctic Alternatives (1973); K.J. Rea, The Political Economy of the Canadian North (1968); William C. Wonders, ed, The North (1972); M. Zaslow, The Opening of the Canadian North, 1870-1914 (1971).