Klondike National Historic Sites – Where the Past is Present

[music] My name is Lisa Favron and I was born and raised in the Yukon. I’ve been living here in Dawson City since 1992. There’s quite a bit of family history, my great grandfather came over from Finland on a boat when he heard about the gold rush and they hiked the Chilkoot Pass and settled in the confluence of the Bonanza Creek and Eldorado Creek. When my great grandfather was mining, all of the mining was done by hand. Any dirt that you moved, was moved with a pail and a shovel. If you had to dig a trench, you dug it by hand. My name is Neil Loveless, I’m originally from the Yukon. I’ve got family that’s been here for over a hundred years. The mining over the past 100 years has adapted and changed lots. It started as hand shafts and guys panning for gold on big adventurous hopes that they were going to find lots at the bottom of deep holes. Then it changed over time as the gold became harder to find, they went towards dredges which were the bigger, larger, more industrial setups. The dredge was a very interesting machine, as it runs off water and gravity – and it’s still very similar to the machines we use today. Joe Boyle and the guys of the old, they would have been amazing thinkers and great big schemers as what it took to get these dredges here. The thought of even doing that today, let alone with the roads and the infrastructure we have now… it’s still a mind-boggling feat that they were able to do that. Historically the mining done by the dredges was to simply go in and turn the creek upside down. They knew that the gold was on the bedrock at the bottom of the creek. So how do you get that is you dig out the bottom and put it on top. My grandfather was dredge master for years. He has stories for all of the fingers on his hands because he broke every finger he had at a different time. He had a shovel finger. He had a trommel finger. I think I have more memories of the dredge than any other part of placer mining in the Yukon. And the fact that so much effort is being put into the preservation and the restoration of these historic sites makes me want to be a part of that too. It makes me proud to have that heritage behind me and to be a part of it. I’m Jesse Cooke and I’m from Windsor Ontario. When the stampeders arrived in Dawson, I don’t think they had any idea of what to expect. I think my generation of people were coming here for the adventure also not knowing what to expect once they got here, and that was definitely the case for myself. The guys that I most admire, well there’s lots of them from the gold rush. Joe Ladue is a great example of an entrepreneur I mean he was the first one, in that all the stampeders were rushing off to Bonanza Creek to stake claims, and here’s this guy staking up a swamp with the idea of turning it into a town site. And he subdivided town lots and sold them off and made his fortune that way. Not only making money but responding to a serious need, which was where are we going to put all these people. I’m Jim Williams and I’m from Southern California and I’m a carpenter here in Dawson City. Parks Canada approached me and they were in the process of restoring the Keno and they wanted somebody that had some experience. A lot of the carpentry and stuff I found to be as light as possible, everything was scaled for weight. All the structural members would be fir but it would be scaled down to just the minimum size. These boats were primarily trucks, the primary thing was freight. When you go to the Keno now, you’ll see that there are some rooms available but the main floor is really just freight. Because of the goldfields and the constant need for materials out there, the shipping and freighting business was pretty organized early on. And it was just a constant flow of materials during the summertime on those riverboats. And if you look at old photographs of Dawson, you just see the docks are full of boats. My name is Georgette McLeod and I’m from Dawson City. Before the gold rush, the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin lived in this area along the Klondike River here and then they lived further down along the Yukon River in various locations. They spent most of their time during the summer months fishing for salmon. The salmon that ran through this area during that time period was like gold to them. When the gold rush started the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin had to change their way of life. They switched from a traditional economy of trade and moved into a wage economy to be able to live the the lifestyle that had changed. They weren’t self-sustaining in a way anymore. From the time of the gold rush to now I think things have improved substantially. Even though there is a large part of our history and our culture and knowledge has been lost There are great efforts to try and bring the language and the culture back You could tell in the architecture that this was a frontier gold rush town. I mean, there was the gaudiness of all the architectural details, the mouldings and all that kind of stuff and the buildings, but at the same time there was this kind of civilizing footprint on this wild wilderness that was here.
Thomas Fuller was a government architect sent up here, I think it was about 1902 or somewhere around there. He was the designer of some of the major government buildings in the town, the Post Office being my favourite of the Fuller buildings you’re overwhelmed by the detail of the woodwork inside. The wickets and where you’ve got your post office boxes and all that kind of stuff is just… the work is marvellous really. I started copying and imitating some of his combinations of mouldings and different angles that he would use to accomplish what he was trying to do. My name is Maria Sol Suarez Martinez. I’m from Argentina originally. I went to design school and then I specialized in millinery and I ended up here and contrary to what everybody would think, I actually found employment making hats in this tiny town of 2000 people. At some point in the gold rush era, Dawson City was called the Paris of the north. Even though there were mud streets, people had beautiful clothes and beautiful shoes and hats. And I guess it was a real need for luxury because some people were making money and you are in the middle of nowhere, so where do you spend it? If I was to relate to somebody from the gold rush, a historical figure, it would be Madame Tremblay. She had the vision to open a shop for all the ladies that ended up here. She imported things from Paris, really beautiful, delicate things. I see myself kind of reflected in that, just trying to make a little bit of room for myself and what I like in my trade I guess… and even if we are in the middle of nowhere and there’s a lot of things that make life a lot different from a city, there’s still certain luxuries that we can have. And even if it seems a little bit weird, we can make room for it, we can make it happen. My name is Halin de Repentigny, I was born in Montreal. I came up here in 1981. I’d never seen a picture of Dawson, I’d come to the Yukon without knowing anything about the Yukon. I didn’t know about the gold rush. One of the jobs I would do, I was probably better with a paintbrush that with a hammer, so I ended up doing sign painting. I did the Red Feather Saloon, not just but, the whole corner – the whole new building and there was quite a few signs there. And what I discovered when I did the Red Feather Saloon… they would do most of the sign painting inside a shop, on paper, and then send the labourer to put that paper on the wall and with a little wheel, a tracing wheel, they would like make holes all through the letter and with a little pouch of chalk, they would copy that pattern and the labourer would paint the thing. And when I did the Red Feather Saloon I could see in the old boards all those little holes that were left there. And I said, this is so ironic – a hundred years later I’m the labourer now doing it. I did the Grand Palace, I did the mural. Dawson is… there’s a lot of energy in this town. I think the energy remained… something stayed in the air from the gold rush. I mean you look at it, 40,000 people, it must have been a hell of a party and that still…. you still can feel it. You still can feel it. After that many years here I can probably paint any corner of this town from memory… characters included. I’ve never been really good at putting my thoughts and feelings into words and sometimes when I read Jack London or Robert Service, I mean, their words are my feelings and I didn’t even know I had them until I heard the words, and then it all makes sense. So when you read Robert Service, when I read Robert Service, the subject matter was sort of gold rush wild but the way he wrote it was more civilized, you know, so you got this kind of contrast between what he was writing about and how he wrote it. There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales “That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see” “Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
” People used to read this stuff aloud in the family, because they didn’t have radios and televisions, so you know the dad would read a poem in the evening or several poems in the evening. So it was common and I think that’s one reason why he wrote poems like he did, in that kind of doggerel style. You know, it’s not very complicated, it’s not very esoteric, it’s sort of entertaining, kind of a song. Our elders are our history and our university. They are the holders of the knowledge of the land and it’s important to take it in and share it with others. Now that people my age and younger are getting educated about their history, I think it’s helping them to reach back into their culture. It’s important for me to raise my family in a setting like in Dawson and along the Yukon River. It brings out the best in them in, exploring their own land. We can talk about things that I’ve done as a child. I can talk about my family and I can share those stories with them and have those experiences with, when we have a chance to be at places such as this. The historic nature of this town is a big part of everybody’s life here. What I like about it is that it’s a real life town, it’s not just a ghost town, it’s not just a museum with a façade. These buildings are lived in, these old cowboy buildings that you see, they’re lived in, there’s real businesses and real people and that’s a lot of fun, that’s a huge part of our culture here, and that’s a huge part of the reason why I love it here. I think everybody feels very proud of the heritage; even people like me who just came here a few years ago rather than was born here. Everybody feels pretty proud of their town and it’s not hard to love it very quickly. What I like in the summertime, is watching the people walk all over the place… walk in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk and stuff like that and it really makes me feel that all of a sudden I’m back in that gold rush time because, if you look at the old photographs, there’s just people everywhere, in the middle of the streets and Dawson gets like that, it really gives you a sensation that you’re… you’ve stepped back in time in a way and with the old buildings it just adds a perfect backdrop for all that.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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