Dalton's cattle

The first newcomers, the fur traders, came to the territory in the middle of the 19th century. Their explorations led to increased interest by the outside world, soon whalers, prospectors, traders and scientists had also started to arrive.

This was a new era: a time of exchanges. The newcomers and the Yukon’s first peoples had many opportunities to learn from each other. Prospectors and traders followed aboriginal travel routes, hired native packers and adapted local clothing and tools. First Nations people gained access to new technologies — weapons, materials, utensils, clothing and foods — that had a profound effect on their lives. Change also brought new problems: disease, conflict, poverty, crime and family breakdown.

The presence of the newcomers, many of them Americans, made the Canadian government realize that it had to assert control over this remote area. The federal government had not established treaties with the resident Indian population, as in other parts of the country. The North-West Mounted Police were sent here in 1894 as the first ‘official’ notice that the Yukon was, in fact, part of Canada.

With the discovery of gold in the Klondike, these gradual adaptations accelerated almost overnight. Thousands of gold-seekers flooded into the Yukon, stretching resources and straining existing relationships. New businesses and services plus the increased speed and power of new technologies radically altered the Yukon. The territory’s population continued to change and diversify through the years to the Second World War and into the present day.

“When we left, the young officer told me that since the previous May 18,000 men had passed [Tagish] post and I was the 631st woman. He numbered our boat 14,405.”

Martha Louise Black

July, 1898

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