This beautiful area is home to more than a dozen major lakes, diverse wildlife and the headwaters of the Yukon River.
Carcross is the traditional home of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. Situated on the narrows between Bennett and Nares lakes, picturesque Carcross has the Yukon’s oldest operating general store, a historic White Pass & Yukon Route train depot, the Caribou Hotel (a Yukon Historic Site) and a First Nation carving centre.
The Tagish Road, a section of the original Alaska Highway, winds along the shores of Nares, Crag and Chooutla lakes. The Tagish North-West Mounted Police post kept track of stampeders during the Klondike Gold Rush.
At Johnsons Crossing, the Canol Road heads north through scenic country to Ross River and the Robert Campbell Highway.
Atlin, British Columbia, is a historic gold rush town on the shore of glacier-fed Atlin Lake. This is the traditional territory of the Taku River Tlingit.
The George Johnston Museum is located in Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre is nearby at Nàghas’ê X’ày í on beautiful Teslin Lake. The Nisutlin Delta National Wildlife Area is an internationally important staging point for migratory waterfowl.
Southern Lakes Woodland Caribou
“The old people used to talk about it, this here was the place for caribou... Used to be hundreds of them, all along the townsite [Carcross], that’s caribou habitat. Caribou has been affected by motorcycles and hikers and you name it. My biggest concern is future generations and the environment...” Carcross Tagish First Nation citizen, 2008.
The Southern Lakes Woodland caribou herd contains the scattered remnants of a much larger herd which once ranged throughout the south-central Yukon.
The caribou decline started in1898 when prospectors and market hunters flooded into the Yukon River headwaters and the Atlin region. The caribou’s habitat and migration routes were disrupted by construction of the Alaska Highway, which brought increased hunting opportunities, land clearance and mining activity.
By 1993, when the Southern Lakes Caribou Recovery Program began, the herd had been reduced to a few hundred animals. This Program is a successful joint effort between several First Nations in the Yukon and British Columbia, Environment Canada and Yukon Government. Today there are approximately 1,600 caribou in the region.
Southern Lakes caribou move short distances between their spring alpine calving grounds, high-country summer range, fall rutting grounds and lowland winter ranges.
The word “terrane” is a geological term for a piece of the earth’s crust with a geological history that is different from the surrounding area. The limestone volcanic rocks, chert and mudstone exposed south of Mount White, the prominent peak southeast of here, are part of the Cache Creek terrane.
The Cache Creek terrane and other terranes that make up the Western Cordillera were forced on top on the western margin of North America when the tectonic plate holding the Pacific Ocean converged with the ancestral North American plate about 175 million years ago.
Limestone of the Cache Creek terrane contains small fossils that are common in rocks in Asia but rare in western North America. This suggests that the Cache Creek terrane moved a long distance before joining the Cordilleran mountain belt.
The location of the Cache Creek terrane, surrounded by terranes that originated near western North America, continues to puzzle geologists.
Carcross Tagish First Nation
The traditional territory of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation (CTFN), including Squanga Lake (above), is a mix of rugged snow-capped coastal mountains, high plateaus, bountiful lowlands and even a small desert. The land is rich with plants and animals.
Generations of Tagish-speaking people created a network of trails that followed the valleys or went from one headwater to the next. Most of their stories are about travelling, about exploring new lands or revisiting lands not visited for years.
A subsistence lifestyle evolved to trading and trapping, packing freight, employment on steam boats and the railway, working for government and developing a sustainable geo-tourism industry.
The Alaska Highway, built in 1942, brought huge changes to the land as did the building of the Annie Lake Road and the Atlin Road. The majority of CTFN citizens now live in Carcross, Tagish, Annie Lake, Marsh Lake and Whitehorse.
Ceremony is a very important part of our life and follows the transition of ages, spanning from birth to death, and out relationship with self, clan and nation. Our art forms express our spiritual relationship and interconnectedness with each other, the land, waster and animals.