OUR JOURNEY

OUR JOURNEY

Our Journey: Yukon First Nations Land Claims and Self-Government

First Nation people have lived in Yukon for thousands of years. This is the story of their journey  towards the land claims and self-government agreements many have today.

Watch the video of the journey and visit the timeline.

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The late 1800s brought with it great change

In 1876, the Indian Act became law in Canada. It set out certain Government of Canada obligations and regulated who is defined as an Indian and the management of Indian band land, monies and resources.

Two decades later, the Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of gold seekers to Yukon, creating social and cultural upheaval for the First Nations people.

In 1900, Chief Jim Boss recognized the effect of settlers and petitioned the Government of Canada

"...the Indians are unable to subsist as they were formerly able to do... He [Jim Boss] says ‘tell the King very hard we want something for our Indians because they take our land and our game."
From a letter Jim Boss wrote through lawyer T.W. Jackson to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, dated January 13, 1902

Chief Jim Boss laid the foundation for First Nation land claims almost 100 years before the first agreements were signed in the Yukon.

Boss was born in 1857, and was the hereditary Chief of the Ta’an Kwäch’än. In the late 1800s, he recognized that the influx of people — as a result of the Klondike Gold Rush — was significantly impacting Yukon First Nations and their way of life.

In 1900 and 1902, Boss wrote to the Yukon Commissioner and the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs requesting compensation for his people’s loss of land and hunting grounds.

In 1900, Chief Jim Boss recognized the effect of settlers and petitioned the Government of Canada

"...the Indians are unable to subsist as they were formerly able to do... He [Jim Boss] says ‘tell the King very hard we want something for our Indians because they take our land and our game."
From a letter Jim Boss wrote through lawyer T.W. Jackson to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, dated January 13, 1902

Chief Jim Boss laid the foundation for First Nation land claims almost 100 years before the first agreements were signed in the Yukon.

Boss was born in 1857, and was the hereditary Chief of the Ta’an Kwäch’än. In the late 1800s, he recognized that the influx of people — as a result of the Klondike Gold Rush — was significantly impacting Yukon First Nations and their way of life.

In 1900 and 1902, Boss wrote to the Yukon Commissioner and the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs requesting compensation for his people’s loss of land and hunting grounds.

In 1968, the Yukon Native Brotherhood was formed

The following year, further momentum was gained in the territory and across the country as First Nation people soundly rejected the White Paper.

In early 1973, the Calder case was a catalyst in the Government of Canada’s development of a new Aboriginal land claims policy to guide negotiations. 

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In 1973, a delegation of leaders travelled to Ottawa

On February 14, 1973 Elijah Smith and Yukon First Nation leaders presented the ground-breaking document, Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, to then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. 

This ground-breaking document was developed by the Yukon Native Brotherhood in close consultation with Yukon First Nation Elders and community members. It laid out the past and present state of Yukon First Nations. It also made recommendations for a better future, including land and cash settlements.

Learn more about the ground-breaking document. →

In 1973, a delegation of leaders travelled to Ottawa

On February 14, 1973 Elijah Smith and Yukon First Nation leaders presented the ground-breaking document, Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, to then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. 

This ground-breaking document was developed by the Yukon Native Brotherhood in close consultation with Yukon First Nation Elders and community members. It laid out the past and present state of Yukon First Nations. It also made recommendations for a better future, including land and cash settlements.

Learn more about the ground-breaking document. →

In 1973, the Council of Yukon Indians was established to negotiate land claims.

First Nations were unwavering in their vision to ensure that they, and not the Government of Canada, would determine who should benefit from their land claim agreements. The Council of Yukon Indians was established to negotiate land claims. It brought together the Yukon Native Brotherhood and the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians to represent all Yukon First Nation people and negotiate land claims on their behalf.

From 1973-1993, negotiations occur between the Government of Canada and the Council of Yukon Indians. 

An initial Agreement in Principle was proposed and rejected by Yukon First Nations due to several concerns, including the absence of a self-government component. Negotiating and settling these agreements involved decades of hard work, innovation and commitment by numerous leaders and visionaries.

In 1993, the Council of Yukon Indians, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon signed the historic Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA).

The UFA, built on the principles introduced by Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, was the first step in the Yukon’s modern land claim settlement process. It acted as the framework for negotiating individual Yukon First Nation Final and Self-Government Agreements. The UFA also includes chapters that address land, compensation, self-government, and the formation of boards and committees to provide community-based input to government decision-making.

Judy Gingell has done so much to advance Aboriginal rights and governance in Yukon. She was a part of the delegation that presented Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow in 1973, she was the leader of the Council of Yukon Indians when the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed, and she was the first First Nations Commissioner of the Yukon.

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Leaders across Yukon worked tirelessly to turn a vision into reality. This podcast series interviews 10 of the leaders that made it happen.

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Wondering about the history of the Agreements? Judy Gingell and Sam Johnson shared their memories and stories in the Perspective Series.

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Elijah Smith is well-known in Yukon for his legacy as a grandfather of the land claim and self-government movement.  Smith was a respected leader who was instrumental in forming the Yukon Native Brotherhood, the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians and the Council of Yukon Indians which went on to lead land claim negotiations working with all Yukon First Nations.

Learn More →