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Ross River, Yukon, settlement, population 293 (2016 census), 352 (2011 census). Ross River is located at the confluence of the Ross and Pelly rivers. It is on the Canol Road (seeCanol Pipeline) at the halfway point on the Campbell Highway. Ross River is 360 km by road northeast of Whitehorse.
Geography of Yukon
The Yukon is divided by three of Canada’s seven physiographic regions. The vast majority of the territory is within the Cordillera region, while small, northern portions belong to the Arctic Lands and Interior Plains. 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.
Self-Governing First Nations in Yukon
There are 14 First Nations in Yukon. Eleven of these nations are self-governing, while the remaining three are governed under the Indian Act. The 11 self-governing First Nations have legislative and executive powers much like a province or territory. In 1993, they signed the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) with the governments of Canada and Yukon. The UFA served as the foundation for individual self-governing agreements made between each First Nation and the territorial and federal governments. These individual agreements were signed between 1993 and 2006. (See also Comprehensive Land Claims.) While the focus of this article is the 11 self-governing First Nations, the remaining three First Nations in Yukon are White River, Liard and Ross River.
White Pass & Yukon Route
The White Pass & Yukon Route railway was built to meet the demand for transportation to the gold fields of the Yukon River basin during the Klondike Gold Rush. Completed in 1900, it was a feat of engineering and one of the steepest railways in North America. It ran 177 km from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon. Today, tourist rail excursions run on a portion of the original line.
Klondike Gold Rush
The discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896 led to a stampede to the Klondike region between 1897 and 1899. This led to the establishment of Dawson City (1896) and subsequently, the Yukon Territory (1898).
Transportation in the North
Inuit and subarctic Indigenous peoples have traversed the North since time immemorial. Indigenous knowledge and modes of transportation helped early European explorers and traders travel and survive on these expanses. Later settlement depended to an extraordinary degree on the development of transportation systems. Today, the transportation connections of northern communities vary from place to place. While the most remote settlements are often only accessible by air, some have road, rail and marine connections. These are often tied to industrial projects such as mines.
In 1974, the federal government formed a royal commission to consider two proposals for natural gas pipelines in the North. Thomas Berger, a judge, led the inquiry. Over the next two years, the Berger Commission assessed the potential impacts of the proposed pipelines. Berger held formal and informal hearings. These included 45 community hearings from the Northwest Territories and Yukon to Southern Canada. His 1977 report made several recommendations. He called for further study and the settlement of Indigenous land claims. He also called for a 10-year ban on pipeline construction in the Mackenzie Valley. Berger opposed building any pipeline across the sensitive caribou habitat of the northern Yukon. The Berger Commission involved the public and included Indigenous views more than any resource-related consultation had done before in Canada.
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Canadian Arctic Sovereignty
Arctic sovereignty is a key part of Canada’s history and future. The country has 162,000 km of Arctic coastline. Forty per cent of Canada’s landmass is in its three northern territories. Sovereignty over the area has become a national priority for Canadian governments in the 21st century. There has been growing international interest in the Arctic due to resource development, climate change, control of the Northwest Passage and access to transportation routes. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2008, “The geopolitical importance of the Arctic and Canada’s interests in it have never been greater.”
Territorial Government in Canada
Under Canada’s federal system, the powers of government are shared between the federal government, provincial governments and territorial governments. The territories — Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon — are governed by their respective governments. They receive their legislative authority (the ability to create laws) from the federal government. Ottawa has given territorial governments authority over public education, health and social services; as well as the administration of justice and municipal government. More and more of these powers have been handed down from the federal government in a process called devolution. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada is the federal ministry responsible for the territories.