Samuel Hearne dubbed the local Dene natives the Yellowknife for the copper knives they used. Miners on their way to the Klondike were the first to discover gold in the area, but they didn’t rush in to stake claims because of the area’s remote location and the difficulty of extracting the mineral from the hard bedrock. But as airplanes began opening up the north, the area became more attractive to gold seekers. Hundreds of claims were staked between 1934 and 1936, and a boomtown sprang up along the shore of Yellowknife Bay.
After the war, growth continued, and soon the original townsite around the bay was at full capacity. A new town, just up the hill, was surveyed, and by 1947 the city center of today began taking shape. In 1967, a road was completed to the outside and the city came to rely less on air travel. The city was named the territorial capital the same year.
The last gold mine closed in 2004, but this coincided with the beginning of a diamond rush. Although these precious gems lie in the Canadian shield hundreds of kilometers north of Yellowknife, the city is the center of resource development, as well as services such as cutting and polishing, giving claim to the title “Diamond Capital of North America.”
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition