There is evidence of human habitation in the Yukon for about 25,000 to 40,000 years, when the area was part of Beringia. The area was sparsely populated by native groups throughout this time. In about 800 CE a massive volcano eruption in nearby modern-day Alaska covered much of the Yukon in ash, and is believed to have resulted in large-scale emigration by the Athabaskan First Nations. The area remained largely isolated and unchanged until the early nineteenth century, when fur traders representing the Hudson's Bay Company began to explore further north in an effort to expand their trade. This lead to the establishment of the first European trading post in the area, and soon trade was firmly established in the region, with attendant competition between various companies. Religious missionaries also began to make inroads into the area in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1859 an attempt to find a way to establish a telegraph line between North America and Russia lead to further exploration of the Yukon. Rumours of gold in the area drew in some prospectors miners around this time, and in 1885 paying gold was located and kicked off more interest in the area. This lead to tentative exploration by American representatives, and attempts to protect their nominal holdings by the Canadian government. In 1896 gold was discovered at Bonanza Creek, instigating the Klondike Gold Rush that saw the influx into the area of some 30,000 to 40,000 prospectors. This massive arrival of American citizens spurred the Canadians to create the Yukon as a separate territory, and it joined the Dominion of Canada in June of 1898. The population of the territory peaked around this time, and declined steadily through the early twentieth century with the culmination of the gold rush. Much of the land was bought up by gold companies, and it was largely ignored for the next few decades. The construction of the Alaska Highway brought new trade and prosperity to the region, but also caused significant devastation to the First Nations populations, many of whom died due to diseases to which they had no immunity, and having an acculturative effect on a great deal of the population. Through the mid-to-late twentieth century shipping and transport into the area increased, and mining resumed in many areas. In 1979 the territory was granted responsible government. Beginning around this time various First Nations groups began lobbying for land claims negotiations, which are ongoing despite the signature of the Umbrella Final Agreement in 1992, and negotiations of involvement in government are also currently ongoing.
The Yukon is the westernmost territory of Canada. It is bounded to the north by the Beaufort Sea, to the east by the Northwest Territories, to the south by British Columbia, and to the west by Alaska. Its capital and largest city is Whitehorse.
There are just under 34,000 people living in the Yukon. The largest ethnic group is Caucasian, with about 71% of the population claiming that ethnicity. A further 25% of the population is First Nations. Other small populations of other ethnic origin make up about 4% of the total population. Christianity is the largest religion, with about 42% of the population claiming adherence to some denomination. About 37% of the population claims no religious affiliation.
A majority of the population speaks English, about 85%. A small population, about 4%, speaks Canada's other official language, French. There are also small populations that speak different First Nations languages, such as Athabaskan languages, Algonquian languages, and Inuktitut.