O'Connor Creek delta in the Tatshenshini River in British Columbia
|Source elevation||910 meters (2,990 ft)|
|Mouth elevation||120 meters (390 ft)|
The Tatshenshini River (Tʼachanshahéeni in Tlingit, Shäwshe Chù in Southern Tutchone) is a river in the southwestern Yukon and the northwestern corner of British Columbia. It originates in British Columbia, near Haines Highway. It flows north into Yukon, then it turns west and south before it returns into British Columbia, where it flows through the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park. There it joins the Alsek River, which then flows in the Pacific Ocean in Alaska. It is a very popular river for wilderness rafting trips.
Although this river was used as a vital trade route by First Nations, in particular the coastal Tlingit people, the first Europeans to travel the present-day Tatshenshini River were Jack Dalton and Edward Glave in 1890, accompanied by two native guides. Prior to 1891, the present-day Tatshenshini River was considered to be the upper Alsek River. (At that time, the present-day upper Alsek River was considered to be the lower Kaskawulsh River.) In or about 1891, the present-day Tatshenshini River (pre-1891 upper Alsek River) was assigned the name Tatshenshini by the Canadian government, and the pre-1891 lower Kaskawulsh River became the present-day upper Alsek River.
About 1897, Jack Dalton established a trading post near the location where the present-day Tatshenini begins to flow westward. This trading post flourished during the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, the site of Dalton's trading post is a popular location for salmon fishermen, and it is the launch point for rafting trips on the Tatshenshini River. The Tatshenshini River was designated a Canadian Heritage River in 2004.
Prior to 1891, the name Tatshenshini did not refer to the present-day Tatshenshini River. Instead, the name referred to the present-day Blanchard River, which is a tributary of the present-day Tatshenshini River, located about 10 miles (16 km) upstream from Dalton's trading post. In 1891, or shortly thereafter, the Canadian government reassigned the name Tatshenshini from the present-day Blanchard River to the present-day Tatshenshini River. Apparently, the government did this without knowledge of the English translation of tatshenshini.
The name Tatshenshini is derived from a Tlingit phrase, the meaning of which was not recorded. However, the original phrase appears to have been t’áchán shahéeni, a compound Tlingit noun meaning river with stinking chinook (king) salmon at its headwaters (t’á [chinook or king salmon] + chán [stink] + sha [head of] + héen [river] + i [possessed noun suffix] ).
The Tlingit phrase t’áchán shahéeni describes the present-day Blanchard River (pre-1891 Tatshenshini River). Chinook (king) salmon run up the present-day Tatshenshini River to the Blanchard River and, thence, up the Blanchard River. At the headwaters (shahéen) of the Blanchard River, the salmon (t’á) die, and their carcasses stink (chán). These headwaters were on the old Tlingit trail and trade route between Haines, Alaska and Lake Kusawa, Yukon.
- Davidson, George (1995). The Kohklux Map. Yukon Historical & Museums Assn., at pp. 15, 18-19 (“All-segh'”; “Katch-kwae-wugh”; “Ta-tchan-seena”).
- The Canadian government assigned the name Alsek to the present-day Alsek River in 1891. Coutts, Robert C. (2003). Yukon Places and Names, 2nd edition. Moose Creek Publishing., at page 19 (Alsek River). It is presumed that the Canadian government assigned the name Tatshenshini to the present-day Tatshenshini River at the same time. At the very latest, the change had occurred by 1898.
- Canadian Heritage River. "Tatshenshini River". Retrieved 2008-03-03.
- Krause, Aurel (1956). The Tlingit Indians. University of Washington Press., at page 253 (Tatschants-hīni). (The original 1885 German edition at page 383, Tatschants-hīni)
- Twitchell, Lance A. (2005). Lingít Dictionary. Troubled Raven Productions., at pp. i (i=possessed noun suffix), 1-6 (chán), 1-24 (héen), 1-40 (shá), 1-44 (t’á), 2-27 (head of), 2-46 (river), 2-47 (chinook [king] salmon), 2-56 (stink). (Since a stink [chán] is always created by something, no possessed noun suffix is needed following chán.)
- After the present-day Blanchard River lost the name Tatshenshini (presumably, in 1891) until 1915 (when it was assigned its present-day name), the Blanchard River was known as Bear Creek. (The Blanchard River was not known as Kleheela; Kleheela was a variant name for the Klehini River, which flows into the Chilkat River.) Annual Report of Inspector A. M. Javis at page 100, App. H., Part 3, Annual Report of North-west Mounted Police 1898, reproduced at, Sessional Papers Vol. 15, 8th Parliament, 4th Sess. (1899) (Kleheela River is south of summit and south of Rainy Hollow; salmon go up Bear Creek to spawn; present-day Tatshenshini River is referred to as “Alsac,” a variation of its original name).
- Krause, Aurel and Arthur (1993). To the Chukchi Peninsula and To the Tlingit Indians 1881/1882: Journals and Letters by Aurel and Arthur Krause. University of Alaska Press. ISBN 978-0-912006-66-6., at page 214 (map: “Tatschanzhīni”).