The Southern Tutchone name for the Takhini River is Nakhu chu, crossing with a raft. “Takhini” is from a Tlingit word meaning "king salmon". In the 1800s, coastal Tlingit trading parties crossed the mountains and followed the Takhini River to a large salmon fishing camp called Lur Dayel (white bank or dust blows) at the junction of the Takhini and Little rivers west of here. They traded with the local Ta’an Kwach’an and Champagne and Aishihik people, exchanging decorative shells and European trade goods for furs.
A network of traditional trails in this area leads north-east to the Takhini Hot Springs and north past an important fishing site on 52 Mile Lake also known as Kwasu Man (lingcod lake). Southern trails lead to sheep hunting and gopher grounds on Sima (Golden Horn Mountain) while western trails continue to the coast past hunting territories in the mountains.
After 1902, First Nations travelled along the Overland Trail in the summer and winter to hunt, fish and visit friends and relatives at Lur Dayel, Nakhu chu (31 Mile Post) and 52 Mile. Mundessa, father of Ta’an Kwach’an chief Jim Boss, lived at Lur Dayel until 1925. After a forest fire swept through the region in 1958, a few families settled by the river here at Takhini Crossing.
The Overland Trail
After the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, the major transportation route between Whitehorse and Dawson City was along the Yukon River. In the summer, paddlewheelers carried heavy freight and equipment. During the winter, dog and horse teams took mail and light freight over the sometimes rough and unreliable ice. The flow of people and freight stopped for about three weeks during spring thaw and fall “freeze-up.”
In 1902, the Yukon Government contracted White Pass & Yukon Route to build an overland winter road from Whitehorse to Dawson City. The company’s winter sleighs carried mail, passengers and light freight over the 530 kilometre trail. The fall disruption was brief as the wheeled stages took the place of sleighs until the frozen ground was buried in snow.
Roadhouses and stables were built along the trail every 20-30 kilometres. Many of these were owned by White Pass & Yukon Route and a few were owned by enterprising businessmen. A roadhouse located just below you on the Takhini River was first owned by William Pucket, also known as “King of the Roadhouses”. The North-West Mounted Police established a detachment next to the roadhouse to monitor traffic and help out in emergencies.
We Remember Elijah Smith Tambey (1912-1991)
On February 14, 1973, Elijah Smith and a delegation of Yukon Chiefs traveled to Ottawa to deliver a document called Together Today for our Children Tomorrow. This presentation convinced Prime Minister Trudeau to open discussions with Yukon First Nations. The following year the federal government began negotiating Yukon Land Claims with the newly formed Council of Yukon Indians, now Council of Yukon First Nations. Elijah Smith was the chairman. Besides being a great speaker for his people, Smith was a trapper, a horse-wrangler, a guide for big game hunters and a family man. His cabin and horse range were located in the Takhini valley on the old Dawson Trail.