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Impacts on Aboriginal People

Impacts on Aboriginal People

A page from Pictorial Souvenirs: The Alaska Highway, c. 1945 Aboriginal people, the majority still following a traditional hunting, trapping and fishing lifestyle, were confronted by bulldozers ploughing their way through the sub-Arctic forest. Several Aboriginal groups, most notable those at Teslin in the southern Yukon, lost many lives to waves of successive epidemics, introduced unintentionally by the construction crews. The workers caused other problems, over-hunting and over-fishing along the highway corridor, and starting a series of forest fires that swept through the region. A few Native men found work with the highway project, primarily as guides and labourers with the survey crews. Native women sold handicrafts and other local products to the construction workers. There were serious problems, as well, with alcohol, which some construction workers made available to Aboriginal people and which caused difficulties in the communities. In general, however, the Aboriginal people avoided the construction activity, hoping that the massive disruptions of 1942 would soon fade into the background. They did not, and in subsequent years First Nations people in the area affected by the construction would associate the construction of the Alaska Highway with the ending of a traditional way of life in the North.

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