Graphic Themes
The Natural World
Northern Tutchone Homeland
Seasonal Round
Trade and Travel
Power and Sovereignty
A Shared Community
See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada
Power and Sovereignty

Hudson's Bay Company and Tlingit Rivalry
The Missionaries
Government Presence: The Police and YFF


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.

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