Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon)


Population: 539*, predominantly Gwich'in Athabascan
Location: Confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers, 145 miles NE of Fairbanks

History: Fort Yukon was founded in 1847 by Alexander Murray as a Canadian outpost in Russian territory. It became an important trade center for the Gwich'in Indians, who inhabited the vast lowlands of the Yukon River and surrounding flats. The Hudson’s Bay Company, a British trading company, operated at Fort Yukon from 1846 until 1869. In 1862, a mission school was established. Alaska was purchased from Russia by the United States in 1867, and two years later it was determined that Fort Yukon was on American soil. Moses Mercier, a trader with the Alaska Commercial Company, took over operation of the Fort Yukon Trading Post. A post office was established in 1898. The fur trade of the 1800s, the whaling boom on the Arctic coast (1889–1904), and the Klondike gold rush spurred economic activity and provided some economic opportunities for the Natives. However, major epidemics of introduced diseases struck the Fort Yukon population from the 1860s until the 1920s. In 1949, a flood damaged or destroyed many homes in Fort Yukon. Fort Yukon incorporated as a city in 1959 and continues to exist as the regional hub of the Yukon Flats. 

*According to the 2010 US Census