Fort Selkirk, really important place. Everyone came there to
trade — Ross River, Carmacks, coast. Lots of potlatch there.
-Sam Williams, 1994.
When people from Pelly are down there (Selkirk), they
are really happy . . . . Just a good feeling when everyone gets
together down there.
-Alex Morrison, 1994
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the building of all-weather
roads from Whitehorse to Mayo and Dawson ended the sternwheeler
era. This also brought about the end of Fort Selkirk as an active
community. Most people moved to Minto to work on the new roads. The
two stores closed, the Roman Catholic priest moved to Carmacks and
the Anglican mission worker, Kathleen Martin Coward, transferred
the mission to Minto. In the late 1950s, most people moved on to
the new community of Pelly Crossing — although Selkirk people
have ended up all over the Yukon, from Watson Lake to Burwash
Landing to Dawson City.
Long after its abandonment, Fort Selkirk has retained its
importance to the Selkirk First Nation members as a focal point in
Northern Tutchone history. The settlement is at the centre of a
vast system of trails reflecting its former importance within a
large trading network. It is near an important hunting and fishing
area. For the elders, it is at the heart of generations of memories
and traditions, an important heritage site to be shared with their
Northern Tutchone elders have shared their history through oral
history accounts, by working with school children, and spending
time at Fort Selkirk telling students and visitors about the
history of the Selkirk people. Since the early 1980s, younger
Selkirk people have been working with the Yukon government’s
Heritage Branch to preserve, manage and interpret the historic
townsite. A local restoration and maintenance crew and interpreters
work at Fort Selkirk every summer allowing the opportunity for new
generations to preserve and present their history. Many families
visit at Fort Selkirk in the summer while others still hunt and
fish in the area.
This strong connection with the past has been commemorated and
celebrated during two recent events at Fort Selkirk. In June 1995,
the Selkirk First Nation hosted Chilkat First Nation people from
Haines and Klukwan at Fort Selkirk. The occasion was the 125th
anniversary of the drawing of the Kohklux map. Kohklux, a Chilkat
chief and his two wives drew the first map of the southwestern
Yukon showing travel and trade routes right up to Fort Selkirk.
Together they celebrated the traditional trading connection between
their ancestors, the Northern Tutchone of the Yukon interior and
Chilkat people of the Alaska panhandle. In the same year, another
former Selkirk resident, ex-Corporal G. I. Cameron, revisited his
former home at the age of 95 during the centennial of the RCMP in
Ingram, Rob and K-L Services. The Kohklux Map.
Whitehorse: Yukon Historical & Museums Assoc., 1995.