Travel & Transportation
'At Lower Post, facto Frank Bass receives word from the outside world only two or three times a year'
Fenley Hunter, Frances Lake, 1924
Traditionally, the Kaska did not travel extensively on the rivers, which had many rapids and portages, but instead journeyed on land carrying their possesions on their backs or on pack dogs. A network of trails connected them with their neighbours.
Until the mid-20th century, the main transportation access to this area four outsiders was either north from wrangell, Alaska, following the Stikine, Dease and Liard rivers or east along the Liard River from its confluence with the Mackenzie River. Both routes were demanding and the rivers were free of ice for only a few months of the year. As river travel increased, Kaska began to supplement their subsistence activities with wage work on the riverboats or cutting wood for the steamers.
In 1942, the construction of the Alaska Highway shifted transportation from the rivers to the land. Many Kaska worked as guides with the surveyors during highway construction.
Adittionally, the Northwest Staging Route, a network of airstrip and airports, increased air traffic to the area.
The Alaska Highway brought enormous changes, both good and bad. The highway disrupted established travel and trade routes and forged new connections. With completion of the highway, freight that previously came by the river could now be transported by road. This led many Kaska people to move from places such as Frances Lake and Pelly Banks to communities along the highway such as Two Mile, Upper Liard and Watson Lake.
Liard Tom, a Kaska Dena, travelled extensively by dog team to trap and hunt.
He used his knowledge of the land to guide U.S army survey crews during the construction of the Alaska Highway. Tom also worked for the Hudson Bay Company building stores and trading post. In recognition of this contributions, Liard Tom was introduced into the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame in 2014