By Ken Coates
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Extra info for Best Left As Indians: Native-White Relations in the Yukon Territory, 1840-1973
Their active interference had, however, postponed the firm's expansion into the Yukon River watershed for more than five years. Bell's discovery changed but did not destroy Native trading patterns. In 1846 Lapierre's House, a small outpost, was built on the west side of the Richardson mountains. 14 The eastern Kutchin lost a valuable trading position, but bands around the new post assumed the role of middlemen. 15 The Kutchin in the Fort Youcon area, formerly dependent on other Natives for supplies of European manufactures, now possessed their own source.
But an even greater challenge loomed on the horizon. Not all the new arrivals were fur traders. The vanguard of the aggressively expansive North American mining frontier reached the Yukon River valley in the 18705. American companies continued to trade with the Indians, but they placed more emphasis on serving the expanding mining sector. By the early 18905 the fur trade had surrendered its pre-eminence, and a new social and economic order had emerged. Unlike the fur trade, the mining economy did not have an important role for the Native people.
The resulting "invasion" disrupted life in the construction corridors and served as a harbinger of the "modern" north. The post-war changes, only a few of which were related to the military construction projects, were indeed sweeping. The federal government, having long ignored its northern responsibilities, assumed a new activist role. As mineral exploration and development increased, Yukon Indians found themselves rejected by the dominant non-Native society and forced off the lands that had sustained their ancestors for generations.