Yukon: History and Government

The territory's history began with the explorations in the 1840s of Robert Campbell and John Bell, fur traders for the Hudson's Bay Company. Several trading posts were built on the Yukon River, and before long prospectors began to search for treasure. The Canadian government acquired the territory from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870 and administered it as part of the Northwest Territories. After the famous gold strikes in the Klondike River region in the 1890s, thousands of fortune hunters arrived in search of gold. This colorful period was recorded in the writings of Robert Service and Jack London.

To meet the need for local government created by the influx of prospectors, Yukon was made a separate district (1895) and then a separate territory (1898) with Dawson as capital. Whitehorse became the capital in 1952. Native land claims and the desire for provincial status are two issues that have dominated territorial politics in recent years. The land claim by the Yukon, a tribe of about 7,000, was approved by the federal government in 1991. In 2003, a revised Yukon Act increased the territorial government's powers, giving it control over public land and natural resources.

The government consists of a federally appointed commissioner, an elected legislative assembly of 18 members, and a 5-member cabinet appointed by the majority party of the assembly. Dennis Fentie led the conservative Yukon party to victory in the 2002 assembly elections, ousting the governing Liberal party; Fentie's government retained power after the 2006 elections. In 2011 Fentie was replaced as Yukon party leader and as premier by Darrell Pasloski, and the party won a third term in offce later in the year. The territory sends one senator and one representative to the national parliament.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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