Yukon River: Staking a Claim
A First Nation's right to the land
Most of the descendants of the Yukon's original inhabitants prefer to call
themselves "First Nations" because the term is a reminder of their ownership rights to the
land they have lived on for thousands of years.
Most of the 500 residents of Carmacks, 175 kilometres downstream from Whitehorse, are
First Nations people. They are eager to see the settlement of Yukon First Nations land
claims in the territory so that their ancestral rights will be recognized. The Canadian
government has promised that about eight per cent of Yukon land will be returned to the
stewardship of its aboriginal peoples.
Before the frenzy of the Gold Rush at the turn of the century, Carmacks was an ancestral
campsite on an important trade route, heavily travelled by the Kutchin from the north and
the interior and by the Tlingits from the coast.
The arrival of Europeans goods and tools brought change to the traditional lifeways of
The site was named Carmacks when the non-aboriginal fur trader George Washington Carmack
built a cabin there. Carmack was one of the three prospectors who staked the claim on Bonanza
Creek that ignited the gold rush.
For a while, Carmacks was a busy fuel stop for Yukon riverboats. In the mid-twentieth
century, when the Klondike Highway was completed, the old Carmacks campsite once again
became a welcome service stop for travellers.
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