A Guide to Modern Tagish, Yukon
This Yukon community of 100 people is situated on the Six-Mile River which
links Marsh and Tagish lakes. Its name means 'fish trap' in the ancient
Tagish language. It's also the name of the native people who lived there.
The long narrows where Tagish Lake drains into Marsh Lake has always been a
popular fishing area for lake trout.
The early miners called it 'Tako' or 'Tahko' Lake and it was part of the
main route to the Yukon River and ultimately the goldfields of the Klondike.
The early prospectors and miners who came into the country learned to
navigate Tagish Lake with respect--particularly Windy Arm and Taku Arm.
These two areas were prone to sudden and violent storms and were the scenes
of many shipwrecks and drownings.
The original location during the gold rush years was an Indian village
about three miles south and on the east side of the lake. The North-West
Mounted Police built one of their most important posts here early in 1897,
which they called Fort Sifton, after the then minister of the interior.
With the sudden influx of gold seekers it soon became a tent city. It also
became the southern police headquarters during the gold rush and it was
extremely busy. Every person passing through was required to register with
the police at the Tagish post--more than 28,000 according to author Pierre
Several thousand boats were given registration numbers. Police and customs
officers inspected all outfits and collected duties. Their actions here are
credited with instilling some order in the stampede to the gold fields of
the Klondike. A post office was also built here in 1897. It operated until
Tagish Indians figure prominently in the history of the gold rush.
American prospector George Carmack learned their language and took up their
lifestyle. He befriended Skookum Jim Mason and later married Jim's sister
Shaaw Tlaa, whom he called Kate. Tagish Charlie, who later became known as
Dawson Charlie, was Skookum Jim's nephew. Patsy Henderson was Charlie's
brother. All five were involved in the historic discovery of gold on
Bonanza Creek in August of 1896.
After the gold rush, police and government officials packed up their
belongings and left the area to its original inhabitants. Over time the
native people gradually changed their land-use patterns and gravitated to
permanent settlements like Carcross and Tagish.
The road from Carcross to Jake's Corner on the Alaska Highway was built in
late 1942 as part of the Canol pipeline from Skagway to Watson Lake. The
present settlement of Tagish grew up around the bridge that was built then.
© 1998-2008 by Ken Spotswood