Dawson plans push to become world heritage site

Dawson City and the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation are working on a plan to nominate the Klondike as a world heritage site.

Dawson City and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation are working on a plan to nominate the Klondike as a world heritage site.

It’s hoped that the designation – awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO – would help draw more tourist dollars to the area.

The designation could also help unite local businesses with the First Nation, said Jackie Olson, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in’s executive director. “We would have the same story to tell,” she said.

The story of the Klondike gold rush in the 1890s and the resilience of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in is indeed unique, and should be told on an international level, said Klondike MLA Sandy Silver.

The world heritage site would include the Tr’ochek fishing camp, the Chilkoot Trail, the Klondike gold fields and the historic district of Dawson, according to UNESCO’s website.

The Klondike has been on the tentative list to become a world heritage site for as long as Silver can remember, he said.

However, the community has been divided on whether or not they welcome world heritage designation, Silver said. The plan would help educate the public on the benefits of being a world heritage site, he said.

UNESCO grants $4 million annually to its 981 sites to preserve the culture and heritage of the areas. Dawson City would have access to the fund, should it receive world heritage status.

Federal funding for the plan is being provided by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The agency

announced last week that it would invest $473,065 in nine projects to boost city’s mining, business development and tourism industries.

The funds will also be used to look into using the The Palace Grand Theatre for entertainment purposes other than skits and plays, said Olson. As it is, the theatre is under used, said Silver.

The feasibility of an ongoing arts and culture market for Dawson City is also being studied.

As well, the Klondike Visitors Association website is being updated, and plans are being developed to build on mining opportunities and growing local businesses.

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com