Yukon Gold Rush: Gold Rush Alaska: Who Discovered it First? Part I

Yukon Gold Rush Gold Rush Alaska
Yukon Gold Rush Gold Rush Alaska

Robert Henderson was a prospector who claimed to point out to the Indigenous man Skookum Jim, his daughter, his nephew, and an American named George Carmack, where the gold was in the Klondike river and creek beds. All of these five people, in the end, would each lay claim as being the one who was first to find where the gold lay in the creek beds, starting the Yukon gold rush.[1] Yukon gold rush or gold rush Alaska was over almost as fast as it started. It only would last three years, it had begun in the summer of 1896, and it would last only until 1899. The few that made any money would often lose it all at Yukon gold casinos.

The influx of gold-hungry prospectors consisting of most Americans would lead to Dawson City’s creation. It would also be the result of the Yukon federally being recognized as a Territory, and many other cities, towns, and villages. Henderson, in the end, would be the one recognized by the government of Canada as being the one who officially discovered and gold which started the Yukon gold rush. Some believe Henderson received recognition as he was Canadian, and Carmack was an American citizen, giving the Canadian recognition as the gold rush happened in Canada.

Yukon Gold Rush
Yukon Gold Rush

The mining industry in Canada specifically the Yukon went from individual labour intensive to working together with companies to gain capital for the expenditures for hydraulic mining equipment and high-powered hoses, resulting in high costs for little profits, well devastating the ecosystems amongst the creek and riverbeds. The use of heavy machinery to find gold would replace a once labour-intensive job with one that destroyed the ecosystem, which would lead to massive job loss very quickly and insensitively. These big corporations and mining companies only cared about profits no matter how much land and water supplies they destroyed. At the same time, the First Nations peoples were going through their atrocities due to the Yukon gold rush or gold rush Alaska.

First Nations people societies were devastated by the influx of people hungry for gold, resulting in losing about ninety percent of their population due to diseases like influenza and measles; their women were abused by the settlers and introduced First Nations in Canada to the harmful drug alcohol. Alcohol would have detrimental effects on First Nations’ overall body and mental health. It would lead to destructive behaviours towards themselves and others.

They would have their land stolen by these profit-driven companies and these gold-hungry prospectors. Over those three short gold rush years resulted in Indigenous peoples losing approximately ninety percent of their entire population. The significant life loss in so little time resulted from prospectors bringing with them and spreading to the unfamiliar immune systems of the Indigenous populous were diseases like measles and influenza.

Yukon Gold Rush
Yukon Gold Rush

Gold was said to be discovered on August 17, 1896, where the Yukon and Klondike rivers meet at the mouth, running off the nearby mountains in the western part of the Yukon territory. Within a year, there were somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30,000 prospectors, most of whom were from the United States searching for gold, which created new towns such as Dyea and Skagway.[2] These towns were several hundred miles away.

First Nations definition – any of the groups of indigenous peoples of Canada officially recognized as an administrative unit by the federal government or functioning as such without official status. The term is generally understood to exclude the Inuit and Metis.



[1] Cruikshank, Julie. 1992. “Images of Society in Klondike Gold Rush Narratives: Skookum Jim and the Discovery of Gold.” Ethnohistory 39 (1): 20–41. doi:10.2307/482563.

[2]  Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Klondike gold rush.” Encyclopedia Britannica, April 21, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/event/Klondike-gold-rush.

First Nations Canada

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Yukon Gold Rush: Gold Rush Alaska: Who Discovered it First? Part I

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