What is the current status of the Tr’ondëk–Klondike World Heritage nomination?

The project partners and Parks Canada have worked together to pursue a successful inscription of Tr’ondëk–Klondike on the World Heritage List, but in May 2018 jointly decided to withdraw the nomination from consideration at this year’s World Heritage Committee meeting. This decision was taken in response to the evaluation of the site by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the expert advisory body to the World Heritage Committee on cultural nominations.

The project partners and Parks Canada consider that this unique site, which commemorates a living gold rush landscape identifying Indigenous culture and mining activity as key elements, would be a valuable contribution to the World Heritage List. However, ICOMOS has expressed concerns regarding the presentation of this site as a cultural landscape, its boundaries, and some of the elements that could contribute to its proposed Outstanding Universal Value. The site’s protection, management, conservation and monitoring measures were all found to be satisfactory.

In light of this feedback from ICOMOS, the partners will continue working together to explore options to advance the nomination. “We have the opportunity now to build an even stronger nomination and determine a successful path forward,” said World Heritage Advisory Committee Co-Chair Paul Robitaille. “Through the nomination process, we’ve formed strong partnerships and generated valuable research on our shared history, cultural practices and community values.”

It is not uncommon for World Heritage nominations to be withdrawn or delayed to address matters raised by the World Heritage advisory bodies. “Parks Canada and the project partners will seek to engage ICOMOS in additional discussions to help determine the path forward” said Parks Canada’s Vice-President, Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Joëlle Montminy. “At this time, our shared objective is to continue pursuing the successful inscription of the site on the World Heritage List.”

International recognition of Tr’ondëk–Klondike would provide for continued community use, protection and appreciation of the site. It would also enrich existing tourism opportunities through recognition of Tr’ondëk–Klondike’s cultural values. “Tr’ondëk–Klondike is a special place unlike any other,” said Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph, “and we want to ensure that present and future generations, as well as visitors from near and far, hear our story.”


What and where is the proposed Tr’ondëk–Klondike World Heritage site?


The proposed World Heritage site is a living cultural site, not a natural site or protected park. It consists of historic and modern sites along an 85-kilometre stretch of the Yukon River, in the Gold Rush-era town of Dawson City and in the Klondike goldfields. It features Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in sites, camps and settlements such as Tr’ochëk fishing camp and Moosehide Village; the streetscapes and buildings of Dawson City and Forty Mile, and the machinery and sites associated with 120 years of continuous, and continuing, placer mining in the goldfields. The site includes heritage buildings, as well as archaeological sites, landscape components, sternwheelers, a gold mining dredge, living and evolving communities, ongoing, operational placer mining, and ongoing Indigenous traditional activities on the land.


Will World Heritage status affect my livelihood (operations, property, claims)?


It will not affect your livelihood. Placer and quartz mining, mineral exploration, development, and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional activities will continue to occur, and will continue to be subject to the legislation, regulations, assessments and permitting processes of the day. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Government of Yukon and City of Dawson have provided a ‘Letter of Assurance’ to confirm that the nomination endorses the continuation of mining operations within the site. The letter demonstrates the governments’ commitment that no additional regulations or legislation will be passed relative to the World Heritage site, and that responsible mining, development and Indigenous activities on the land will continue to be supported. Tourism opportunities will likely increase; however, a tourism strategy will developed to keep our quality of life and ensure mining operations in the goldfields are not affected by tourism growth. World Heritage status will not affect Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in treaty and aboriginal rights, titles and interests.


Why does this area deserve to be a World Heritage site?


There is no other place like Tr’ondëk–Klondike in the world. What makes our community so special is that it is a living, evolving, cultural place. It tells the story of two cultures with very different relationships to the land, which were suddenly bound together by the iconic Klondike Gold Rush. It demonstrates physical evidence of Indigenous and mining activities that have co-existed from the gold rush to the present day, both of which have shaped and continue to shape the landscape and the peoples who live here. It is an exceptional, intact and comprehensive example of how 19th Century gold rushes have had a profound influence on landscapes, culture and people.


Are there any other heritage sites like ours?

There are similar 19th century gold rush sites in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Canada, but Tr’ondëk–Klondike stands out as the best example of a gold rush landscape where continuous mining coexists with the strength and ongoing presence of a self-determining Indigenous people (the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in).

Tr’ondëk–Klondike has been nominated as a ‘cultural landscape’ that continues to evolve and change. This means it’s a living cultural site – similar to World Heritage sites that have ongoing agriculture. In the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila, Mexico, there are living townsites, farming and tequila distilleries are still active, and the World Heritage site’s values depends on the continuation of farming and distilling. In the copper mining town of Sewell, Chile, the ore grinder is still active, and the site’s values depend on it. In Laponia, Sweden, the Indigenous tradition of reindeer herding is still active, and the site’s values depend on it.

Tr’ondëk–Klondike is proposed as living, evolving site in which the traditions of gold mining and Indigenous activities on the land are still active and will continue to be active, and the maintenance of the site’s values depends on it. This makes our site very different from a natural World Heritage site, protected park, or relic site that remains unchanged.


How are cultural sites different from natural sites?


Cultural heritage is ways of living that are passed down from generation to generation, demonstrated in places, objects, practices, and other expressions. Some types of cultural World Heritage sites are groups of buildings, monuments, archaeological sites, living traditions, or cultural landscapes.

Natural heritage includes physical, biological or geological features that have exceptional scientific or aesthetic value. Natural World Heritage sites often commemorate ecosystems, biodiversity, geological processes, natural beauty, and other natural values.

UNESCO World Heritage sites are nominated for their outstanding cultural and/or natural heritage values, and they are called cultural sites, natural sites, or mixed sites. (Mixed sites must demonstrate both cultural and natural features.) UNESCO only evaluates a site under the criteria listed in its nomination proposal. Although our community is very proud of the natural beauty in the Dawson region, Tr’ondëk–Klondike is nominated solely because of our unique cultural heritage. The nomination proposal does not highlight natural values. If Tr’ondëk–Klondike is added to the World Heritage List, it will be a cultural site.


Who prepared the nomination?


The development of the Tr’ondëk–Klondike nomination was overseen by a community-based Advisory Committee, and managed by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. It was prepared by individuals who live here, raise their families here and make their livelihoods here. The World Heritage Advisory Committee consists of representatives from the Klondike Visitors Association, Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, Dawson City Museum, City of Dawson, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Government of Yukon, Klondike National Historic Sites, Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, and Yukon Chamber of Mines, a Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizen, and community residents.


Who supports the nomination?


There is strong local and territorial support for the World Heritage nomination among heritage, tourism, business and arts sectors, the City of Dawson, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Yukon and federal governments. The nomination was identified as a key private business opportunity in regional economic planning. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and Yukon Government provided funding, with in-kind support and project management from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.


Who will have authority over the site?


It will remain entirely the property and responsibility of the current owners, under the jurisdiction of federal, territorial, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and municipal governments. UNESCO has no authority to impose new protections or guidelines on the site. The nomination proposal for Tr’ondëk–Klondike demonstrates that we already have high standards of managing our heritage values. After inscription, the local Advisory Committee will keep working together to promote and develop interpretive programs for the site, and provide reports to UNESCO on the state of the site.


What are the benefits?


World Heritage status will strengthen community attachment through greater recognition of our shared story, and of the important role that the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and mining still have in the region and will continue to have for generations to come. It is an opportunity to present different perspectives and raise positive profiles. First and foremost, it will help strengthen our community through working together and respecting each other’s stories.

It is expected that strong marketing through the international lens of the globally recognized UNESCO logo will attract more visitors — including higher-spending international and winter visitors — and encourage private-sector investment in new and expanded facilities and services we will all enjoy. This will provide a much-needed boost to not only tourism, but also to other primary industries such as mining and agriculture that can take advantage of these, improving the long-term economic sustainability of Dawson and the Yukon. As members of the community, your support for World Heritage status helps support our efforts to diversify our economy, stimulate business opportunities that create year-round jobs and incomes, open up access to new funds for improved community facilities and sustain the exceptional quality of life we enjoy here.


What about the impact of tourism?


The local Advisory Committee will plan for sustainable increases to visitor numbers, ensuring that visitors have access to appropriate areas of Tr’ondëk–Klondike and can appreciate the site’s values without impacting community use. Tourism plans will be developed that reflect the needs of residents, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, miners and visitors. It is an opportunity to develop and enhance programs at places such as Tr’ochëk, Forty Mile, and Bear Creek and leverage funding for their sustainability. Private areas like Moosehide, where there is no desire for tourism, will not be promoted or made more accessible. It is important that interpretive and safety signs are assessed for placement and effectiveness, to prevent visitors from endangering themselves or others by intruding on private property, mining operations and by impeding traffic.


Why were the goldfields chosen to be within the site?


The nomination illustrates the story of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and newcomers from the gold rush to the present day, and how their activities continue to shape the land. Bonanza Creek is at the core of the Klondike Gold Rush story, and the site has to include a sample of physical features related to the placer mining tradition—past and present—in the Klondike goldfields. The boundary extends from ridge to ridge along Bonanza Creek, with Discovery Claim and Dredge No. 4, and includes Bear Creek and the Ridge Road.


How long will it take for the site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List?


The Tr’ondëk–Klondike nomination was submitted by Canada in January 2017 on behalf of the local Advisory Committee, and was withdrawn in May 2018 to undertake further work. The status of the application is currently on hold.


What is the role of ICOMOS in World Heritage?


ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) is an NGO that gives recommendations to the World Heritage Committee on cultural and mixed World Heritage sites and new nominations with cultural heritage value. ICOMOS is responsible for evaluating the Tr’ondëk–Klondike nomination, which is currently on hold.

During the evaluation process, each nomination proposal is assessed by up to 10 experts drawn from the ICOMOS network, who study the proposed “Outstanding Universal Value” of the site. ICOMOS selects one expert with practical experience to visit the proposed site and assess the authenticity and current heritage management. These expert reviews are considered by the ICOMOS Panel during the evaluation.

As an international NGO, ICOMOS provides advice on cultural heritage only, and has no authority within Canada or any other country regarding regulations or legislation.


What is the role of the IUCN in World Heritage?


The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is an NGO that gives recommendations to the World Heritage Committee on natural and mixed World Heritage sites and new nominations with natural heritage value. IUCN has published recommendations stating that mining not occur within World Heritage sites with biodiversity and ecological values. IUCN does not have a role in cultural sites on the World Heritage List.

During the ICOMOS evaluation of Tr’ondëk–Klondike, the IUCN provided advice to ICOMOS on aspects of the cultural landscape. If Tr’ondëk–Klondike is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the IUCN will have no role in the site.


Where can I get more information?


We’ve been speaking with community groups and individuals via public meetings, mail-outs, and conversation since 2013. We would love to hear from you. Please let us know the best way to get in touch, and follow Tr’ondëk–Klondike on Facebook for news and events.

Sharing information and hearing about your expectations and priorities are important to the Advisory Committee. If you’re interested in more information or have questions, please contact us.