Jun 29, 2011

The Yukon/Klondike Gold rush and the 'All Canadian Route'

Source (non CC): Toronto Litho Co. Ltd., "Map Showing Route from Edmonton to Yukon River...", Library and Archives Canada, (I) NMC-197728, (II) NMC-197729, (III) NMC-197730 - Powered by Zoomify

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Background - Quick and Dirty
The Klondike or Yukon Gold rush started in the late 1800's.

There was a frenzy of 'stampeders' racing for fortune to the remote north. Their target was an area around Rabbit Creek which later was more appropriately named Bonanza Creek. It was gold most were after.

People came from all over the world to experience the mystery of one of North America's last frontiers. The Northwest.

Several routes were established to help the stampeders. They would often stock up on ample supplies but lacking the proper directions, maps or pamphlets many had no chance. The RCMP was kind enough to dispatch Insp. J.D. Moodie to scout one of those routes.

If you were rich you got to take a boat ride to St. Michael, Alaksa and use whatever means available (often hired hands) to get through the Yukon River to Dawson.

The less advantaged had several options. I try to think positive! They could start on water over the Skagway/Dyea up the British Columbia Coast and then from Skagway, Alaska decide on the White Pass or the Chilkoot Pass.

The White Pass was full of criminals and outlaws. The most notorious and famous was perhaps Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and his gang of 300.

The Chilkoot Pass was an old trade route used by the Tlingit Nation. It was steep and long... It became known as the 'Dead Horse Trail' as many were not prepared mentally or physically with their over bearing provisions - which some would find themselves short of.

If you were lucky to get through either Pass you then had to brave perhaps the Yukon River in whatever watercraft you could muster from the environment around you.

The other option was to make your way to Edmonton, Alberta. Those desperate enough to reach the gold streams could spend up to 2 years on this All Canada Route if they were lucky.

You would be called a fool for attempting the 'All Canadian Route'.

It's estimated that in the first six months of the rush over 100,000 had set out for the Klondike with less than 30,000 actually completing or surviving the trip.

1,500 stampeders would be all that would embark from Edmonton to challenge the Canadian Route with only around 725 of them making it to Dawson.

First Nations in the Peace
My people were and still are, present in an area crossed by this land route.

We (the Saulteaux and Cree) came to this area from out East before the stampede was in full swing. When we arrived we met the Beaver people or Dunne-za who were willing to share what land they used with us and still do. I am going to go more detail about this particular piece of time in another post.

The encounters between First Nations and Stampeders along the All Canadian Route resulted in high tensions in the Peace River area.

Soon all travelers heading north were no longer able to do so because 'the Indians' had established a prominent village near what is now Taylor BC so that not even the RCMP were permitted through anymore.

Word was quickly sent to Ottawa that the Indians demanded a Treaty to settle the unrest building in the North. Three Commissioners were dispatched (another post later).

The "All Canadian Route"
The maps below are a rarely seen representation derived from field notes and drawings from the original scouting trip.

All in all, for those that did make the arduous journey riches may not of been so easily had at the end of the road (Dawson). The 'good' stakes were claimed long before anyone really got there.

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