Yukon Historical Timeline
The Ice Age history of Yukon is unique in Canada. The massive Cordilleran ice sheet advanced over southern Yukon at least six times during the last 2.5 million years. This continental glacier eroded rocks and left behind debris and unique deposits. The earliest glacial advance changed the directional flow of the Yukon River while other glacial events diverted and dammed rivers, creating huge lakes.
Reduced global sea levels and the formation of the Bering land bridge linked Eurasia with North America. The towering St. Elias Mountains cut off precipitation bound for the interior and prevented ice sheets from forming in Beringia. Yukon’s Ice Age was distinct in that west-central and northern Yukon remained ice-free as part of the eastern area of Beringia. This ice-free refuge was a vast cold and arid grassland and home to woolly mammoths, horses and lions.
The ice ages and Beringia came to an end approximately 10,000 years ago. Global warming melted the glaciers and the water poured into the oceans. As sea levels rose, the Bering land bridge flooded. Extinction of many ice age mammals changed the face of Yukon forever.
About 10,000 to approximately 25,000 years ago: Yukon is home to the woolly mammoth, Yukon horse, steppe bison, scimitar cat and saiga antelope.
10,000 to approximately 5,000 years ago in the post-glacial period: Early occupants mainly hunt caribou with microlithic weapons at the end of spears propelled by throwing boards or atlatls.
1,200 years ago: A massive volcanic eruption along the Yukon-Alaska border blankets much of southern Yukon with thick deposits of volcanic ash. First appearance of the bow and arrow in Yukon.
1750 – 1890: The height of trade between coastal Tlingit middlemen and interior Yukon people supplying furs to markets in Asia, Europe and North America.
1825: Sir John Franklin begins searching for the Northwest Passage and maps the Arctic coastline from the mouth of the Mackenzie River to the Alaskan North Slope.
1848: Robert Campbell establishes Fort Selkirk, for the Hudson’s Bay Company at the mouth of the Pelly River.
1852: Coastal Tlingit traders run the Hudson’s Bay Company traders out, abandoning Fort Selkirk.
1867: The Dominion of Canada came into being July 1. Parliament outlines its conditions for accepting the Hudson’s Bay Company land to thewest of the old Upper and Lower Canadas. Russia sells Alaska to the United States.
1882: A party of prospectors crosses the Chilkoot Pass for the first time and prospects the Sixtymile and Fortymile rivers during the next year.
1883: American Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka creates the first modern survey of the Yukon River.
1886: More than 200 prospectors arrive in Yukon’s interior and establish a trading post at the mouth of the Stewart River. A strike of coarse gold on the Fortymile River draws attention away from other areas.
1887: A trading post is erected at the Fortymile River mouth and becomes the first gold rush town.
1888: Coal for Yukon use is mined near present-day Carmacks.
1889: Alaska whalers establish a winter base at Herschel Island in Yukon’s Arctic waters.
1895: Inspector Constantine of the North-West Mounted Police and 20 men are sent to uphold Canadian sovereignty and maintain law and order in Yukon. The police act as Dominion land agents, custom collectors, magistrates and represent all government departments.
1896: Skookum Jim, George Carmack and Dawson Charlie strike gold on Bonanza Creek in the Klondike River drainage. Word spreads and creates the world-famous
1898 Klondike Gold Rush.
1898: Ottawa passes the Yukon Territory Act to constitute Yukon as separate and distinct from the North-West Territories. Dawson City becomes the territorial capital city and is the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg.
1900: White Pass & Yukon Route railway establishes the town of Closeleigh (later called Whitehorse) and connects to Skagway, Alaska. Their steam-powered sternwheelers travel the Yukon River and its major tributaries carrying people, mail and supplies.
1902: A winter road is built to link Dawson City and Whitehorse.
1906: The first silver ore is shipped from the Mayo region. Gold production falls in the Dawson City region.
1914: Silver King mine in the Mayo district ships out over 1,000 tons of ore.
1919: Keno Hill Mine is discovered and in production by the end of 1920.
1935: Martha Black runs for Parliament and wins after her elected husband, George Black, falls ill. She is the second Canadian woman to sit in the House of Commons.
1942–43: More than 10,000 American military and civilian personnel arrive to construct the Alaska Highway.
1953: Yukon’s capital city moves south from Dawson City to Whitehorse.
1973: Elijah Smith and a delegation of Yukon First Nation chiefs travel to Ottawa with the document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow and begin working on Yukon land claims.
1993: A final version of the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed by the governments of Canada and Yukon, and Yukon First Nations as represented by the Council for Yukon Indians (now named Council of Yukon First Nations).
1995: The first Yukon First Nation Final (land claim) and Self-Government Agreements take effect.
2003: A new Yukon Act comes into effect April 1 and confirms the provisions of the Devolution Transfer Agreement. It gives the Government of Yukon direct control over a much wider variety of provincial-type programs, responsibilities and powers.