AskDefine | Define Yukon

Dictionary Definition



1 a North American river; flows into the Bering Sea [syn: Yukon River]
2 a territory in northwestern Canada; site of the Klondike gold rush in the 1890s [syn: Yukon Territory]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a UK /ˈjʌk.ɒn/|/ˈjuː.kɒn/, /"jVk.Qn/|/ju:.kQn/

Proper noun

  1. Yukon Territory

Extensive Definition

Yukon () is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three territories. It was named after the Yukon River, Yukon meaning "Great River" in Gwich’in. A person from Yukon is called a Yukoner.
The name Yukon Territory may also be used, although this usage is disputed by residents of the 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 m (19,551 ft), the Yukon's Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park and Reserve, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second highest of North America (after Mount McKinley).


Long before the arrival of Europeans, central and northern Yukon escaped glaciation as it was part of Beringia (Bering land bridge). Remains of human inhabitation were found near Old Crow appearing to be the oldest in North America. Around 800 AD, the volcanic eruption of Mount Churchill near the Alaska border blanketed southern Yukon with a layer of ash which can still be seen along the Klondike Highway. Coastal and interior 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 latter end of the 19th century gold miners were trickling in on rumours of gold, creating a population increase justifying the setting up of a police force, just in time for 1897's start of the Gold Rush.


The very sparsely populated territory abounds with snow-melt lakes and perennial white-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 American state of Alaska to the west, the Northwest Territories to the east and British Columbia to the south. Its northern coast is on the Beaufort Sea. Its ragged eastern boundary mostly follows the divide between the Yukon Basin and the Mackenzie River drainage basin to the east in the Mackenzie mountains. Its capital is Whitehorse.
Canada's highest point, Mount Logan (5959 m), is found in the territory's southwest. Mount Logan and a large part of the Yukon's southwest are in Kluane National Park and Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other National Parks include Ivvavik National Park and Vuntut National Park 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 Lake, Atlin Lake, Tagish Lake, Marsh Lake, Lake Laberge, Kusawa Lake, and Kluane Lake. Lake Bennett, B.C., 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 Alsek-Tatshenshini, 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 River in the southeast and the Peel River and its tributaries in the northeast.
The capital, Whitehorse, is also the largest city, with about two-thirds of the population; the second largest is Dawson City, (pop. 1,250) which was the capital until 1952.
10 Largest Communities by population ¹ Part of "Metro" Whitehorse Census Agglomeration


The 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 Territories 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 Police, 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.


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. One can hire small planes and discover the Yukon from a bird's eye view or take in the Yukon's diverse geography from ground level. Sports enthusiasts can paddle lakes and rivers with canoes and kayaks, ride or walk endless 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.
The 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 Reserve, Vuntut National Park, Ivvavik National Park) and reserves, or nearby Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in British Columbia.
On the long cold 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 Pass 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, but some making their way further to Alaska and over to the Bering Sea, and other tributaries of Yukon River such as the Stewart River. 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 and Whitehorse. The railway ceased operation in the 1980s with the first closure of the Faro mine. It is now run during the summer months for the tourism season, with operations as far as Carcross.
Today, major land routes include the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway (between Skagway and Dawson City), the Haines Highway (between Haines, Alaska, and Haines Junction), and the Dempster Highway (linking Inuvik, Northwest Territories to the Klondike Highway), all paved except for the Dempster. Other highways with less traffic include the "Robert Campbell Highway" linking Carmacks (on the Klondike Highway) to Watson Lake (Alaska Highway) via Faro and Ross River, and the "Silver Trail" linking the old silver mining communities of Mayo, Elsa and Keno City 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 Airport serves as the air transport infrastructure hub, with direct flights to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Fairbanks, and Frankfurt (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.
anchor Government anchor Government anchor Politics

Government and politics

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 is 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.
The Yukon Act, passed on April 1, 2003, formalised the powers of the Yukon government and devolved a number of 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.
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.
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 Canada by a single Member of Parliament and one senator. In contrast to United States territories, 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, along with Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick. See same-sex marriage in Yukon.

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 vacant (since December 2006). It was last 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: The territory once had an Inuit settlement, located on Herschel Island off the Arctic 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.



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."


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



  • 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

Yukon in Arabic: يوكون
Yukon in Min Nan: Yukon
Yukon in Bulgarian: Юкон (територия)
Yukon in Catalan: Yukon
Yukon in Czech: Yukon
Yukon in Welsh: Yukon
Yukon in Danish: Yukon
Yukon in German: Yukon (Territorium)
Yukon in Estonian: Yukoni ala
Yukon in Modern Greek (1453-): Γιούκον
Yukon in Spanish: Yukón
Yukon in Esperanto: Jukonio
Yukon in Basque: Yukon
Yukon in French: Yukon
Yukon in Galician: Yukón
Yukon in Korean: 유콘 준주
Yukon in Indonesian: Yukon
Yukon in Italian: Yukon
Yukon in Hebrew: יוקון
Yukon in Pampanga: Yukon
Yukon in Georgian: იუკონი (ტერიტორია)
Yukon in Cornish: Yukon
Yukon in Latin: Yukon
Yukon in Lithuanian: Jukonas
Yukon in Ligurian: Yukon
Yukon in Macedonian: Јукон
Yukon in Dutch: Yukon Territory
Yukon in Japanese: ユーコン準州
Yukon in Norwegian: Yukon
Yukon in Norwegian Nynorsk: Yukon
Yukon in Piemontese: Yukon
Yukon in Polish: Jukon (terytorium Kanady)
Yukon in Portuguese: Yukon
Yukon in Romanian: Yukon
Yukon in Russian: Территория Юкон
Yukon in Simple English: Yukon
Yukon in Slovak: Yukon (teritórium)
Yukon in Serbian: Јукон
Yukon in Finnish: Yukon
Yukon in Swedish: Yukon
Yukon in Vietnamese: Yukon
Yukon in Turkish: Yukon
Yukon in Ukrainian: Юкон (територія)
Yukon in Volapük: Yukon
Yukon in Samogitian: Jukons
Yukon in Chinese: 育空
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