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Culture & Heritage
Skagway is one of the few places in southeast that didn’t have a big native influence. Skagway was originally pronounced Schkag-wah and spelled with a u a y instead of w a y. Back in 1898 some bureaucrat in Washington D. C. thought whoever filled out the form to become a Post Office didn’t know how to spell and changed it to the way it is today. The Tlingit Indians are the indigenous people in the region. Skagway didn’t have a fishery and in those olden days if you didn’t have fish you weren’t worth anything. Consequently, the natives didn’t show much interest. That didn’t keep them from naming our area though. The Tlingit’s referred to Skagway as the place with “white caps on the water” and “home of the wind”. Tlingit is pronounced Kleen-khut.
White mans history in the area began back in the 1880’s... Some white folk started exploring the region after gold was discovered down south in Juneau and Sitka. A trading post was established in Dyea by the late 1880’s and William Moore and family homesteaded the Skagway Valley. Skagway was called Mooresville until the prospectors renamed the valley in 1898.
With the discovery of large amounts of gold in Dawson City, Yukon in August of 1896, thousand of prospectors immigrated to the north and most came through Skagway to get there. We are now known as the “Gateway to the Yukon” and Dawson is our only sister city. 1897 and 1898 Skagway filled with stampeders was described by the Canadian Mounties as a place,”little better than hell”. At its zenith, Skagway boasted a population of almost 15,000.
Today, thanks primarily to the National Park Service; the downtown area has been restored and is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The KGRNHP has sites in downtown Seattle, Skagway and Dyea, Alaska (beginning of the Chilkoot Trail). The Chilkoot Trail segment is co-managed with Parks Canada making this park one of two internationally managed parks in North America.
Go to our web site and click on history for a more detailed review of our past.