ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

Yukon Order of Pioneers

Yukon Order of Pioneers membership certificate - click to enlarge     Two years prior to the Bonanza Creek discovery, the Yukon Order of Pioneers (Y.O.O.P.) was founded, on December 1, 1894 at the mouth of the Fortymile River. Charter members included several prominent gold rush figures such as Jack McQuesten, Al Mayo, George T. Snow, Tom O’Brien and Jim Bender. In the entire Yukon Territory - more than 200,000 - there were then only several hundred white men and a few white women, most of whom were situated around Fortymile, which was the first permanent mining camp in the Yukon area. Life was hard for these early pioneers and the living conditions in the rugged frontiers favoured associations such as the Y.O.O.P.

    At that time, the primary purpose of the order was mutual protection. The order was the official voice for these early settlers in matters of public importance and carried out many of the social services that have since been assumed by the government. The Y.O.O.P. settled disputes within their camp, took care of the sick, and raised funds in order to send ill or injured men back to Vancouver or Victoria for required medical treatment. With the arrival of the North West Mounted Police the order became more of a fraternal and benevolent organization. Afterwards, the Y.O.O.P. remained in good standing in the various communities with its members volunteering their services for charitable projects sponsored by the order.

    With the onset of the Klondike Gold Rush the Y.O.O.P. established lodges throughout the territory, maintaining its social and fraternal functions and perpetuating the memory and achievements of the pioneers in the North. Initially membership was confined to men who had arrived in the Yukon Valley prior to 1882. This date has gradually changed over the years. Today 20 years residency in the Yukon is required.

    From Fortymile, the Y.O.O.P. spread to Circle City in 1895 and then to Juneau and Dawson City. In 1899 a lodge was established in Rampart City, Alaska and in 1900 an additional lodge was established in Nome, Alaska. The Dawson Lodge No. 1 had been informally referred to as the Grand Lodge. In 1913 a Grand Lodge was formally organized in Dawson City to which all subordinate lodges had the right to send delegates. Each lodge is allowed one delegate for every ten members in good standing. It would be the responsibility of this Grand Lodge to frame new constitutional provisions and laws to govern subordinate lodges.

    The annual celebration of the Y.O.O.P. is held on Discovery Day, August 17, the day of the famed discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek. This day has since been proclaimed a statutory holiday in the territory. The Y.O.0.P. spawned many off-shoot organizations, some of which continued to be affiliated with the order, and others which were completely disassociated from it. The Alaska Pioneers, formerly known as the Alaska-Yukon Pioneers, was one such organization that had been inspired by the Y.O.O.P. The Y.O.O.P. and the Alaska-Yukon Pioneers both continue to play a key role in the International Sourdough Reunion to this day.

    Today, the Grand Lodge is still in existence, with subordinate lodges - No. 1 in Dawson and No. 2 in Whitehorse. Lodge No. 3 was founded in Mayo in 1922 but due to the dwindling membership, the lodge disbanded and the Pioneer Hall was taken over by the local chapter of the I.O.D.E. sometime in the 1930s.

    Some functions of the order entail the maintenance of the Y.O.O.P. cemeteries in Dawson City and Whitehorse, the upkeep of the lodge building in Dawson City, the funeral, burial and rites of deceased members and the administration of the estate of a deceased members on the request of heirs. The Dawson Y.O.O.P. oversees the Discovery Day festivities, participates in various charitable drives, and attends to the needs of the elderly, especially their own members. In 1925, the Dawson Lodge, with financial assistance from the White Pass & Yukon Route, built the "Pioneer Dome Road" to the Midnight Dome as an attraction for tourists. The Y.O.O.P. also petitioned for an all-weather road to be opened from Dawson City to Whitehorse, for adequate postal service and for radio service in the Yukon.

    Honorary memberships have been presented to pay tribute to Yukon First Nations people and women. Chief Isaac of Moosehide was awarded an honourary membership by the Y.O.O.P., as well as Sister Superior Mary lgnatia and the Sisters of St. Ann. Recently the Y.O.O.P. has been criticized by some people for denying women full membership in the organization.

    Nevertheless, women have played a large role in the organization. The Ladies Auxiliary to the Y.O.O.P. is based in Whitehorse. It often works in conjunction with the Y.O.O.P., as well as other benevolent and charitable organizations to support various projects around the territory. The Whitehorse Auxiliary also hosts members from Haines Junction, Teslin and Carcross and currently has 106 members.

    The Yukon Order of Pioneers has donated a collection of the organization's documents to the Yukon Archives for safekeeping, and for use by researchers. The introductory history of the Order posted above was written by the Yukon Archives, and a basic inventory to that collection and other YOOP-related material, is linked below:

Y.O.O.P. Material at the Yukon Archives

Y.O.O.P. Links