Friday Book Club: The Klondike Gold Rush

SWT-Book-ClubsWelcome to Friday Book Club!  This month we’ve been talking about The Call of the Wild, by Jack London.  The Call of the Wild takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush.

The Klondike Gold Rush is often said to have started when a huge gold deposit was discovered in 1896, but like many starting dates for historical events this one is open to interpretation.  Miners had already been mining along the Yukon River and had established a large town, Circle City.

In 1896 three men and one woman discovered a huge deposit of gold in the Yukon river.  News spread within Alaska and miners began heading to the area.  But it took the news a whole year to reach San Francisco and Seattle.  Once it did, the Rush was quickly in full swing.  Approximately 100,000 people tried to get to the gold fields.  Most didn’t make it, and of those that did, few got rich.

George Carmack and , the purported discoverer of the Klondike gold, and his wife, Kate Carmack.  She was born Shaaw Tia and was a Tinglit First Nation Woman.  She was with George Carmack when gold was discovered and some say she may have been the one to actually discover it.  They had one daughter together, Graphie Grace.

George Carmack, the purported discoverer of the Klondike gold, and his wife, Kate Carmack. She was born Shaaw Tia and was a Tinglit First Nation Woman. She was with George Carmack when gold was discovered and some say she may have been the one to actually discover it. They had one daughter together, Graphie Grace.

The area in which the Gold Rush took place was populated by native groups including the Tagish, Tlingit, and Hän Athabaskan Peoples.  In The Call of the Wild, Thorton is attacked by the entirely fictious Yeehat Indians.  Although I haven’t studied this time period extensively, I could find little mention of violence between indigneous Alaskans and miners of the nature described by Jack London.  Many of the Hän people were placed in a reservation downstream from the boom town Dawson.  In addition to losing fish and game, they suffered disease when the people of Dawson built a sewage system that emptied out into the river that flowed to the Hän.

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The rush ended in 1899, when gold was discovered elsewhere in Alaska and Canada.  The discovery of gold in Nome, Alaska led to a gold rush there that lasted until 1909.  Gold mining continues in Alaska today and the sled dogs of Jack London’s Klondike rush are still indispensable as racers and as work dogs.

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