The Yukon is home to 8 different First Nations Languages belonging to two distinct language families. Gwichʼin, Hän, Upper Tanana, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, and Kaska belong to the Athabaskan language family. Tlingit belongs to its own family. Both Tlingit and Athabaskan languages, however, belong to the Na-Dené language family.

Today there are few speakers of traditional First Nation languages in the Yukon, with the number of speakers ranging from zero to around twenty depending on the community. About half of the First Nation communities in the Yukon have fewer than ten speakers of their traditional tongue.

The numbers of fluent speakers reflect only one aspect of endangered traditional languages. The demographics of speakers are also relevant. The majority of speakers are elders in their communities.

Intergenerational transmission is also an important aspect: virtually no children learn traditional languages as their first language. Instead, they often learn English as their first language.

The language revitalization program aims to change this language shift by increasing the number of speakers of traditional First Nation languages in the Yukon.


Gwich’in is the traditional language of the Van Tat Gwich’in, “people who live among the lakes (of the Crow Flats area)”, in and around Old Crow, Yukon. Gwich’in is spoken by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, whose traditional territory is located in the northern Yukon. Historically, Gwich’in has also been called Loucheux, Kutchin, and Tukudh, and is spoken in northeastern Alaska, in the communities of Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Birch Creek, Venetie, and Arctic Village, and in the northwestern part of the Northwest Territories, in the communities of Aklavik, Inuvik, Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River), and Fort McPherson.


Hän is the traditional language of the Hän Hwëch\’in, “people who live along the (Yukon) river”, and is spoken in two communities, each with its own dialect. The Moosehide dialect is spoken by the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation, based in Dawson City, Yukon. The dialect is named after the traditional camp of Moosehide, which is located five kilometers downstream of Dawson City, and where the Trondëk Hwëch\’in moved in 1898 to escape the influx of non-first nations settlers and transients brought to Dawson City by the Klondike Gold Rush. The Eagle dialect is spoken by the Hän Native American people in Eagle, Alaska, located along the Canada-U.S. border in Eastern Alaska. The traditional area of the Tr\’ondëk Hwëchʼin includes the beautiful Tombstone mountain range and Tombstone Territorial Park.


Kaska is the traditional language in the southeastern Yukon communities of Ross River, Watson Lake, and Upper Liard, which are home to the Liard First Nation and the Ross River Dena Council. Kaska is also the traditional language of several communities in northern B.C., including Lower Post, Fireside, Good Hope Lake, Dease Lake, and Muncho Lake. Kāskā is the traditional name of the creek that joins Dease River near the former settlement of McDames in northern B.C.

Northern Tutchone

Northern Tutchone is the traditional language of the Yukon communities of Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Stewart Crossing, Carmacks, and Beaver Creek. These communities are home to four First Nations: the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun (Mayo), the Selkirk First Nation (Pelly Crossing), the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation (Carmacks), and the White River First Nation (Beaver Creek).

Southern Tutchone

Southern Tutchone is the traditional language of the southwestern Yukon communities of Haines Junction, Champagne, Ashihik, Burwash Landing, Kloo Lake, Klukshu, Lake Laberge, and Whitehorse. Several distinct, but mutually intelligible, dialects comprise Southern Tutchone, which is the mother tongue of four First Nations: the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the Kluane First Nation (Burwash Landing), the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (Whitehorse), and the Ta\’an Kwäch\’än Council (Whitehorse).


Tagish is the traditional language of the southern lakes area of the Yukon, including the communities of Tagish, Carcross, and Marsh Lake. Tagish, which means \’it (spring ice) is breaking up\’, is spoken by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.


Tlingit is the traditional language of the Tlingit first nations living in Carcross and Teslin, Yukon, Atlin, B.C., and the coastal areas of southeast Alaska, from Yakutat to Ketchikan. In the Yukon, Tlingit is spoken by the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

Upper Tanana

Upper Tanana is the traditional language of those living in the Scottie Creek drainage area around Beaver Creek, Yukon, which is home to the White River First Nation. Upper Tanana is also spoken in the eastern Alaskan communities of Tetlin and Northway, and on the Tanana River above Tok. Different dialects of Upper Tanana are spoken in each community.