June 5th – “Striking Gold In Dawson”
Another great day in the Yukon.
It started off with an 8:15am tour of a working gold mine just outside of Dawson. It was just me and a young couple from Winnipeg on the tour. They were Jets fan, but we won’t go there.
The first stop was to the mine site itself. I was amazed that they are still taking gold out of the ground. This particular company extracts nearly two million a year in gold. After touring the site, we got to take our turn panning for gold in the Hunker Creek, home of some of the first gold strikes. It took me three attempts at sifting through sand, rocks and silt, before I finally hit “pay dirt”. I found a tiny piece of gold barely bigger than the head of a pin, but it was gold nonetheless, and it was all mine!! The guide put it in a tiny little vial for me and told me that if I try to sell it in town, I’ll get about 50 cents.
The guide, who lives half of the year in Dawson and half of the year in Montana, filled us in on some of the local characters who call Dawson home. I’m hoping to see Caveman Bill who literally lives in a cave outside of town.
After that I spent much of the afternoon at the “Danoja Zho Cultural Centre”. This amazing place shares the history of the Klondike’s First Nations people, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in (the word Klondike comes from the early prospectors mispronouncing their name). Their story is similar to so many stories of First Nation’s people across Canada. These nomadic people lived in peaceful co-habitation with the land for generations, only to be forced off the land by the thousands of white prospectors who came in search of gold. Their village was turned into the “red light” district of Dawson, housing the dozens of prostitutes who came north in 1898. They then faced the humiliation and cultural genocide wrought by the Residential School system that took their children away from them to church run institutions far away from Dawson (they took them in the backs of trucks). However, their story has a happy ending. 20 years ago they were granted territorial independence and won the right to self-governance. Today they have a strong and thriving community.
The picture below is of a dress that was made by an artist from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Nation. It is made out of red tape signifying the red tape that they had to go through with the government of Canada to win their land settlement claims. If you look carefully, you will notice that hanging from the front of the dress are positive words like trust, empathy, dignity, hope. On the back of the dress the strands of tape have words like anger, sadness, pain, disrespect. It is to signify the hope that the bad part of their history is now behind them, and ahead of them are hopeful and happy times. It is a stunning piece of artwork with a message for the world.
Pouring rain here now, so I’m going to hunker down and count my gold (should take 2 seconds). Tomorrow is my last day in Dawson, so I want to make the most of it.