The territory was split from the Northwest Territories in 1898. The federal government's Yukon Act, which received royal assent on March 27, 2002, confirmed "Yukon" as the standard, though "Yukon Territory" remains the more popular usage. Though officially bilingual (English and French), the Yukon Government also recognizes First Nations languages.
At , Yukon's Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park and Reserve, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest on the North American continent (after Mount McKinley in the U.S. state of Alaska). The territory's climate is Arctic in the north (north of Old Crow), subarctic in the central region, between north of Whitehorse and Pie Town, and has a humid continental climate in the far south, south of Whitehorse and in areas close to the British Columbia border. Several rivers run through Yukon, some being the Stewart River, Peel River, and the Yukon River, after which the territory was named.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, central and southern Yukon was populated by First Nations people, and the area escaped glaciation. The volcanic eruption of Mount Churchill in approximately 800 AD in the U.S. state of Alaska blanketed southern Yukon with a layer of ash which can still be seen along the Klondike Highway and forms part of the oral tradition of First Nations peoples in Yukon and further south.
Coastal and inland First Nations had extensive trading networks. European incursions into the area only began early in the 19th century with the fur trade, followed by missionaries and the Western Union Telegraph Expedition. By the 1870s and 1880s gold miners began to arrive. This drove a population increase that justified the establishment of a police force, just in time for the start of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. The increased population coming with the gold rush led to the separation of the Yukon district from the Northwest Territories and the formation of the separate Yukon Territory in 1898. Sites of archeological significance in Yukon hold some of the earliest evidence of the presence of human occupation in North America. The sites safeguard the history of the first people and the earliest First Nations of the Yukon. More information is found in the Yukon Archaeology Program.