Bringing the World to Carcross
The Carcross, Yukon community is small but mighty. As the gateway to the Yukon from Alaska, the community lies 74 km south of Whitehorse on the Klondike Highway and is home to the Tagish and Tlinglit First Nation people (and, for the trivia lovers out there, the world’s smallest desert). A community of under 400 people, Carcross has carved out a thriving tourism economy based primarily on being in the middle of the 110-kilometre historic railway between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon; thousands of people ride the Carnival every day during the summer.
C/TMC (Carcross/Tagish Management Corporation), as the economic development branch of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, has always overseen a number of Carcross businesses. A new, five-year tourism development outline, led by new CEO Nelson Lepine, has recently kicked the focus on citizen employment into high gear.
“Carcross/Tagish Management Corporation is very excited about the cultural and economic opportunities in Carcross,” says Lepine. “Cultural tourism, strengthens community partnerships, offers training for Aboriginal artists and youth, and advances the business potential that exists in the Carcross region.”
In what is bit of a real life fairy tale, the same year the tourism plan was developed, Carcross received a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, affectionately known around the world as William and Kate, during their 2016 Royal Visit. First Nation Chief Andy Carvill, of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, hosted the Royal Couple, who enjoyed a cultural dance at the Carcross Commons. Opened May to September, the Carcross Commons gathers 22 artisans’ boutiques, a restaurant, a coffee shop and a playground. The Commons also hosts the Skookum Jim’s House, currently home for Parks Canada – Chilkoot office and a Mac Bride museum exhibition about the Gold Rush.
The eyes of the world on Carcross was an auspicious start for C/TMC to fulfill its new mission: to build a private sector economy in Carcross Southern Lakes Area that will create a sustainable flow of jobs and business opportunities for the community, our citizens and the region.
Working for the Citizens
“Our goal is centred around our shareholders, who are our citizens,” says Lepine. “Everything we are doing at C/TMC is so that our every citizen who wants to work can find a job. Employment means not only becoming self-sufficient, but also money generated to be reinvested into our community. In short: create a diversity of jobs and increase the number of business opportunities in the community.”
Lepine says beyond its businesses, Carcross has pristine natural beauty, and world-class hiking and mountain biking trails to attract visitors. “Our mountain biking trails attract riders from all over the world,” says Lepine, of the Montana Mountain trails on Carcross/Tagish First Nation land. Since 2006, the Single-track to Success project has offered jobs for many Carcross youth and has worked to bring over 40 km of stellar Mountain Biking trails to the mountain.
Whether it is leisure activities or something more on the adventurous side, Carcross has something for any visitor (Royal or otherwise). The tourist attractions are centred around the Carcross Commons. Especially exciting is the new Carcross Art House which opened through a partnership between the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation, Carcross/Tagish Management Corporation and the Southern Lakes Artist Collective.
“[C/TMC] is very excited about the cultural and economic opportunities created by the new gallery at the Carcross Commons,” CEO Nelson Lepine said. “The project supports cultural tourism, strengthens community partnerships, offers training for Aboriginal artists and youth, and advances the business potential that exists in the Carcross region.”
Minister of Economic Development Stacey Hassard echoed Lepine’s sentiment, saying at the time of the opening, “This new space allows Yukon artists to showcase export-ready products, develop business skills, and promote their art to regional, national, and international visitors of Carcross.”
Another anchor to the Commons is the Carcross Learning Centre, built to showcase the art, culture and history of the community and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation people and to help users learn and understand the culture of the Inland Tlingit and Tagish peoples’ way of life.
The multi-purpose facility also serves as a central gathering place for the Community, where intercultural and educational sharing, preservation and enlightenment nurtures the well-being and place of the people it serves.
“The Learning Centre will work on development of the culture in the sense of how they send it out in the community,” says Lepine. “Tourists are invited in for touring, discussions, and learning.”
Lepine says the C/TMC is ready to work with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation to support the messaging of their culture alongside them, to help non-First Nation members become more familiar with the wonderful history and culture of Tagish and Tlingit Nations.
“We are here to help in anyway we can,” says Lepine. “And we are very proud to help bring Carcross to the rest of the world.”