BURWASH LANDING

If you are fortunate enough to have already driven through portions of Kluane National Park, you know the breathtaking scenery that lies behind every bend and curve in the road.

Despite the reputed beauty and relative proximity to most Yukoners, I have been shocked and dismayed to learn that many Yukoners have not driven any further than Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway.

If time does not permit a drive to Alaska, there is reason enough to go even as far as Burwash Landing. A hidden gem of the Yukon museums, the Kluane Museum of Natural History, is sure to satisfy.

Situated in the small town of Burwash Landing, right off the Alaska Highway, the museum provides world-class wildlife exhibits and displays on the Southern Tutchone people.

The drive itself, and a quick stop at the Sheep Mountain Centre to view Dall sheep from the viewing deck or the highway, will give you all the incentive you need to want to learn more about the 70 animals, birds and fish found in the National Park and displayed at the museum.

On my first visit to the museum, I was in awe of the commanding presence of the bull moose as he stared down on me. Weighing nearly 1,600 pounds, I secretly prayed never to have to face such an animal outside the comfort and safety of the museum.

The animal displays not only tell the story of the region’s natural history, but are complemented by artifacts and stories of the Southern Tutchone people and linkages are made between the importance of animals to First Nation people and culture.

The wolf, for example, plays a large role in Native lore, representing one of the two dominant moieties in the Yukon. Wolf and Crow people form the two main groups that make up the complex social structure of most Yukon First Nations.

The museums ethnology collection features a number of masterfully crafted First Nations garments — including mukluks, parkas and robes — all beautifully adorned with beading and fur.

Whether you are still planning your summer plans or already plan to head to Alaska, a stop at the Kluane Museum of Natural history is the perfect complement to the area’s beauty and history.

For more information and museum hours, call 841-5561.

This column is provided by the Yukon Historical & Museums Association.

PHOTO: YUKON GOVERNMENT