Yukon First Nations

The Yukon First Nations people lived a nomadic lifestyle. They followed the game and moved with the seasons to different locations where sources of food were known to be.

Although life was simple it was by no means easy. Yukon Elders tell stories of starvation, when their ancestors couldn’t find enough nourishment to sustain the group and many people perished. Despite the harshness of the environment they were able to persevere and survive.

Scientists and archaeologists also have a story to tell in the Yukon.

Their story is similar to that of the Elders and often correlates scientific fact to legend. They say that man was first evident in the Yukon about 15,000 years ago after people migrated over the land bridge known as Beringia which, during the last ice age, was a massive steppe connecting Siberia and Alaska.

They slowly migrated into North America and the people who are now known as Yukon First Nations were part of some of the last waves of people to cross the land bridge.

During this time the Yukon was also home to many animals that are now extinct. Woolly mammoths, giant beavers, and giant bears are present in the stories during a time when animals and humans were interchangeable and the world around us was not as we see it today.

Over thousands of years the people in the Yukon settled into their traditional territories and developed distinct languages and cultures, and this is how we define the various groupings today.

Yukon Languages

There are eight language groupings amongst Yukon First Nations. There are two major language families: Athabaskan and Inland Tlingit.

The Athabaskan language family extends over an immense area of North America and is the largest language family.

Athabaskan is further subdivided into seven dialects of Athabaskan which are: Gwich’in, Hän or Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Upper Tanana, Northern and Southern Tutchone, Tagish and Kaska.

The languages of the Slave, Chippewayan, Dogrib, Kutchin, Kaska, Tutchone, Han and Hare peoples of the Northwest, Nunavut and Yukon Territories all derive from the Athapaskan linguistic family.

The Tlingit people and language originate from Southeast Alaska and they made their way into the Yukon at least 300 years ago to trade with the people of the Interior, the Athabaskans. Many people in the Southern areas have both Athabaskan and Tlingit ancestry.

Yukon First Nations people are represented by 14 Nations who make up about a quarter of the population and represent eight languages.

The Yukon Territory is a Canadian Province north of British Columbia and between Alaska and the Northwest Territories that split off from the Northwest Territories in 1898.

Sites of archaeological significance in the Yukon hold some of the earliest evidence of the presence of human occupation in North America, ancestors of the earliest First Nations in the Yukon.

The Yukon  has a relatively small population of only about 34,000 people in a huge area of 482,443 sq kilometers (186,272 sq miles).

The territory once had an Inuit settlement, located on Herschel Island off the Arctic coast. This settlement was dismantled in 1987 and its inhabitants relocated to the neighbouring Northwest Territories.



  • First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun


  • Kluane First Nation
  • Kwanlin Dün First Nation


  • Liard River First Nation
  • Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation


  • Ross River Dena Council


  • Selkirk First Nation


  • Ta'an Kwach'an Council
  • Teslin Tlingit Council
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation


  • Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation


  • White River First Nation

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