Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

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Black City: Black City Timeline

Gwich’in men from the Peel River area in Dawson with loads of caribou meat, 21 March 1911.

Gwich’in men from the Peel River area in Dawson with loads of caribou meat, 21 March 1911.

Yukon Archives #2155, Vancouver Public Library Coll.

The Klondike Gold Rush intensified Tukudh and Tetl’it Gwich’in use of the upper Blackstone River area, and for a time drew them even further south to supply fur and meat to the booming markets of Dawson City.

Late 1800s until ca. 1927

- Gwich’in people stayed at the seasonal settlement of Black City. People then dispersed; many moving to Moosehide, Old Crow and Fort McPherson.

From the height of the Gold Rush period to about 1920, the principal Tukudh and Tetl’it Gwich’in settlement in the area was Black City or Blackstone Village. Some other isolated camps and cabins were located in the Blackstone Uplands, including Calico City, Michelle’s (Old Man Mitchell) cabin, Noil’s (?) cabin, and Alfred Bonnet Plume’s camp.

Early 1900s to ca. 1930s

Takudh Gwich’in and Teetlit Gwich’in people made annual winter trips to Dawson to sell tons of caribou meat that they had hunted on the way. During these visits, they stayed at Moosehide. A number of the Takudh later settled at Moosehide.

Early 1900s

Many Gwich’in people died of diseases introduced by stampeders. Reverend Martin tells of digging many graves for people who died of influenza.

1904

The first of the annual police patrols between Dawson City and Fort McPherson, then in later years over the sea ice to Herschel Island. This route was nearly 1000 miles (1600 km) round trip. First Nations guides and hunters were important to the success of these long winter trips.

1910s

Fox farming became popular in the Yukon and a number of First Nations people made a good living trapping and selling live foxes. In 1913, the Dawson Daily News reported that Gwich’in people trapped four live foxes and delivered them to Dawson.

1910

10 December, Inspector Frank Fitzgerald led a group of three men on the annual winter patrol between Fort McPherson and Dawson City. For the first time, the patrol travelled from north to south rather than from Dawson to Fort McPherson. Two weeks later, the patrol hired Esau George to guide them across the portage to the Peel River, the last time they were seen alive.

1911

Feb., when the patrol had not reached Dawson by late February, Inspector Dempster was sent out with a search party to find the missing men. They found the bodies of Lost Patrol on March 21 and 22, within a day’s travel of Fort McPherson; then delivered the news to Dawson, traveling 475 miles by dogsled in 19 days.

The failure of Fitzgerald’s patrol was later ascribed to an inexperienced guide, inadequate food and gear for living off the land, and excessive cold, heavy snows and sparse game. As a result of this tragedy, the police built rest cabins and supply caches along the patrol route and always hired a capable First Nations guide and hunter.

1927

The last resident of Black City moved to Fort McPherson.

1955

February, Cat train crews began building a winter road built from Flat Creek, south of present Dempster Corner, to Eagle Plains and Peel River Plateau.

1959

Construction of highway begins. Oil discovered at Eagle Plains.

1963

The new road was named after Inspector William John Duncan Dempster of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.

1979

18 August, official opening of the Dempster Highway, Canada’s first all-weather road to cross the Arctic Circle at Flat Creek. Final cost of the highway was nearly $103 million.

1986

Dempster Interpretive Centre opened at Tombstone Campground in a renovated trailer.

1992 through 1997

Tombstone Park was the subject of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Land Claims negotiations.

1994

February 9, 388km² withdrawn from disposal (subsurface withdrawal) for Tombstone Park.

1998

16 July, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in signed their final and self government agreements.
15 September, land claim & self-government agreements became effective.

2004

Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of completion of the highway. YK and NWT sponsored events in various locales and communities along the length of the highway. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens celebrated their history on the highway at Black City on August 18th.

October, the Yukon Cabinet officially established Tombstone Territorial Park.