The Southern Lakes is located within the Pacific coast mountainous region called the Canadian Cordillera which separates the Yukon from the Pacific Coastal region. The original travel routes were made through the Chilkat, White and Chikoot Passes from our bordering Pacific Coast neighboring community of Skagway, Alaska to our south west.
Our region boasts access to picturesque glacier pebbled mountain peaks at 6,886 ft ‘Jubilee Mountain’ and Montana Mountain at 7280 ft. The St. Elias mountain range northwest of us provided the rain-shadow and prevent ice accumulation to the east of the mountains thus providing the haven for the early people, plants and animals. Gold resulted as well because this area was not scraped by glacial ice.
The Southern Lakes Region also boasts the actual headwaters of the 2nd longest river in Canada, the Mighty Yukon. It runs 3,185 km, from our Southern Lakes Region to the Bering Sea.
The Southern Lakes Region is relatively dry year round with precipitation ranging from 250 ml in the valleys to 600 ml up in the peaks. More rain falls in the winter (50-70 cm) than the summer and we can boast that our winters are probably the best in Canada for lack of precipitation and the benefits of cold dry snow providing magnificent outdoor recreation. The wild flowers and gardens of the Yukon are truly a sight to see.
The Yukon began, as a haven during the ice age for peoples escaping the cold from Asia to the “Great River” or “Yu-kun-ah” today’s Yukon Territory.
Our elders have stories and legends of the creation of earth and its first inhabitants. 10,000 to 25,000 years ago the land bridge from Asia to Northern Canada during the ice age brought travelers to this land. They came to find an ice-free warmer haven for survival and this included animals such as; woolly mammoth, bison, horse and caribou.
In 1789, almost 50 years after the Russians started to explore the Pacific Coast; MacKenzie traveled the Mackenzie River to the Arctic coast and at that time heard about our Great Yukon River to the south/west.
Our region was already trading furs for European goods. Our Tlingit people were establishing relationships with the Russians, Americans and British traders. Free Trade was the norm. By the mid-1800s the British and Americans were setting up trading posts in this lucrative natural resource area. The Fort Selkirk trading post began trespassing on our regional monopoly and it took the Tlingit almost four years to drive the Hudson Bay out of the Southern Lakes Region.
The semi-nomadic subsistence lifestyle incorporated trapping and trading. The Anglican Church entered the picture in the late 1800s.
By 1870, Gold became the lure in the Yukon and our Southern Lakes families were at the front of the Rush. Tagish Charlie, Skookum Jim and George Carmack discovered the Bonanza Creek pay streak on August 17, 1896.
With the people, came need for fuel, food, services. Our game, forests and people were in demand and this impact changed the lives and the future of the Southern Lakes Region forever. Now the livelihood of our original people turned from a semi-nomadic subsistence lifestyle to a static monetary based lifestyle. Trapping and hunting continued.
In 1898 the Canadian Federal Government set up basic administrative structures in the Yukon. The first significant Northwest Mounted Police post was established just east of today’s Tagish community to inspect and tariff travelers moving down our great river, the Yukon. To move travelers and supplies north even faster, the Whitepass and Yukon Railway was connected through the Southern Lakes region to Whitehorse in 1900. Sternwheelers moved through our Lakes system for business and pleasure. By 1942-43 war fears brought the Alaska Highway and airstrips to our region and again communities and settlements were moved to meet the needs of progress. When the Sternwheelers were pulled from the waters, our people living along these rivers and lakes moved to locations along the highways.
Today, we are an integrated people still faced with constant change and, as in the past, we will together rely on our abilities to adapt, learn and remember who we were, how we evolved and hold on to the best of what we have to offer the future as people of the Southern Lakes Region. This will be our legacy.
We are hospitable people but no pushovers and we invite you to learn and trade with us together.
Our Culture & Our Pride
Our region is the traditional territory of the Tagish people who follow the movements of moose, woodland caribou, sheep and fish within this very wealthy region.
In the 1800s, the fur trade created a new industry and the Tagish people became the middlemen between the coastal Tlingit, inland Kaska and Tutchone peoples. Many of the social customs of the Tlingit people were adopted by the Tagish people.
The Tlingit people formed the base of the trade economy of the late 19th century between the Alaskan Coast Tlingit and the Athapaskans of the Southern Lakes Region.
Today these original people make our communities of Teslin, Carcross and Atlin their home and continue to revive their languages, dance, songs and regional place names.
Our region becomes whole with the inclusion of all of its jewels, past and present.
The northern area of our region also include Southern Tutchone people including the members of the Kwanlin Dun, Champagne Aishihik First Nations and Ta’an Kwach’an and Kluane Tribal Council with their traditional lands located in our Mount Lorne and Marsh Lake communities.The Southern Lakes are rich in ancient and recent history to whet the appetite of the least curious Canadian and saturate the palette of international historians.