The struggle for power is a recurring theme in the history of Fort
Selkirk. An early example is the Hudsonís Bay Companyís struggle with the
Coastal Tlingit people for supremacy in trading with the Northern Tutchone.
Later the Anglican Church worked to gain influence and to convert native souls
to Christianity, finally the NWMP and the Yukon Field Force worked to establish
and implement Canadian sovereignty in an area largely inhabited by Americans.
In 1848, five years after initial contact between whites and the ancestors of
the Selkirk First Nation, Hudsonís Bay employee Robert Campbell sought to
create a post from which he could trade with the Northern Tutchone. Campbellís
goal was to replace the Coastal Chilkats as the Northern Tutchoneís main
trading partner. This prospect enraged the Chilkats and they were determined not
to be undermined by the Hudsonís Bay Company. In 1852, after years of
difficulty, the white traders were becoming well established in Fort Selkirk.
The Chilkats, fearing losing their status as preferred traders, attacked
Campbellís post in August of that year. There were no deaths, but for the
Hudsonís Bay Co. it was the last straw, and they abandoned the Upper Yukon for
more profitable activities elswhere.
When Arthur Harper opened his trading post in 1889, more and more Northern
Tutchone began spending time at Fort Selkirk. Three years later Reverend Thomas
Henry set up an Anglican Mission to minister to these people. Missionaries
served in the area for the next 60 years. The church taught the ways of white
society and discouraged "unchristian behaviour." Many traditional
First Nations practices, including potlatches and cremation of the dead, were
frowned upon. Frequently Fort Selkirk children attended the Anglican mission
school at Carcross where they were separated from their families and were kept
from speaking their native language. Many First Nations people are still coming
to terms with the residential school experience.
In 1898, a detachment of the North West Mounted Police was established to
monitor heavy river traffic during the Klondike Gold Rush. They were followed by
the Yukon Field Force, a special unit consisting of 200 soldiers that was
established to help the NWMP maintain order and assert Canadian sovereignty
among the mostly American gold miners. The following spring the soldiers and
police left to perform their duty in Dawson City. The police didnít return to
Fort Selkirk until 1932, where they remained until the settlement closed.