Klondike Gold Rush

Gold in the Klondike!

By the mid-1880s, a series of small gold discoveries had drawn several hundred miners to the Yukon River basin. On August 16th, 1896, the famous strike was made on Rabbit Creek (quickly renamed Bonanza Creek), a tributary of the Klondike River. Within days, miners had staked claims up and down the Klondike River creeks and were digging up vast amounts of gold. When news of the find reached the Outside, thousands of people from all over the world dropped everything to go north and seek their fortunes. Within months, the fledgling settlement of Dawson City, at the mouth of the Klondike River, became a thriving metropolis.

What impact did this onslaught have on Yukon’s First Nations people? For many, their way of life changed forever. Although there were some new opportunities – many First Nations hunters earned money selling game and fish to the miners, while women found a ready market for their handmade clothing – there were serious problems as well. Many people became ill and died from diseases for which they had no resistance, and alcohol caused a number of social ills.

Dawson City during its heyday, 1898.
YA, Eric Hegg fonds, # 2516A.

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