I believe that no one individual deserves credit for the original discovery, and that the entire matter can’t be decidedly argued for good. I have no comfort in any one decision and I think it should just be accepted that no one was recording the moment of interest at the exact time, and that this information is not lost or buried, but that it simply isn’t there. I draw the same conclusion for the “discovery” of the Americas by the Europeans. It was all just there. It was “discovered” when thousands of groups like the Olmecs (and even further back of course) realized that they were standing on that wonderful, rich ground that they could live on, and no one argues about who was the first to think of that.
Of course there’s gold in the Yukon. There’s gold everywhere in the world, it’s a fact of Geology. It’s likely that some one in the Yukon decades before whom no one knew dug up gold around there and it was rather unremarkable. In fact I have no doubt. What people are actually asking is, “Who was the first person to find LOTS of gold? And who shouted out and spread the word about how rich the Yukon is?”
I hope you noticed how I separated these two questions. For some reason, people are expecting this to be the same person. Because that would be easy. Hundreds to thousands of people can babble about gold in the Yukon. And they did. That’s how the information got about elsewhere.
People often say it was Robert Henderson who found “the first gold”, but he didn’t do well enough, so he didn’t file a claim and tell people. Kind of like my mysterious prospector. It seems to be a similar idea with Arthur Harper and Joe Ladue. But no, the other camp arguing for Skookum Jim say that they know what happened in August and September of 1896. And they probably do. Maybe. (laughs)
Perhaps it was the commissioner, Charles Constantine who made such a fuss about it all. Okay. So what? That wouldn’t make him special. This man coming from Rabbit Creek has huge gold nuggets and will likely get more and make hundreds of thousands (which they did) and he wants to make a discovery claim at your office. Well of course it’s a lot of money and a big deal. Someone would say something about it, and yeah. Every guy with a shovel and pan wants a piece of this sensation. So yes. Skookum Jim and George Carmack made millions of dollars in partnership and George arranged that damn discovery claim. That’s the point. The most important thing I read in this list of documents is the quotes from George Washington Carmack. Like this one;
“Now, I have never claimed to be the original discoverer of gold in the Klondike. But on August 17, 1896, one of the most startling and far reaching events in the history of gold discoveries took place when I uncovered the frozen bosom of the Klondike and sent forth from Bonanza Creek the astounding cry: ‘One hundred dollars to the pan!’
That cry was heard clear across the continent, while the echo reverberated around the entire globe.”
I think this is exactly his point. This is why I think he doesn’t claim to be the original man. Because he doesn’t care, not while they’re rich. Anyone can have their opinion of the “discoverer”, but what really went down in history was their huge success. And if someone else really did find the gold, it wouldn’t mean that this “discoverer” was responsible for the sensation. They’re just missing the point. I hope you understand now, why I think the debate is pointless and why I say, “I don’t know who discovered gold in the Yukon.”