Yukon First Nations people and the Klondike Gold Rush (7 periods)

Many Tlingit people worked as packers during the Klondike gold rush. They helped stampeders carry the huge amount of supplies they needed over the Chilkoot trail. Source: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division. Frank La Roche Photograph Collection. PH Coll 283

*** Note to Spring 2015 students: we will not be doing all of the activities in this unit.  Check the course calendar to fin dout which assignments you must complete.

In this unit, you will study the effect of the Klondike Gold Rush on Yukon First Nations cultures. The main resource we will be using is the website Canadian Mysteries.

Vocabulary for this unit

Orientation Lesson (1 period)

You will watch the 1991 documentary film, Rush for Gold, the Klondike Gold Rush, 1897 by David Newman.  Then you will take notes on the broad history of the Klondike Gold Rush.


  1. David Newman’s documentary Rush for Gold uses a style of cinematography called the Ken Burns effect, in which the camera pans along still photographs.  Why do you think Newman did this, rather than using video footage?
  2. There were many gold rushes in Western North America during the 1800s.  List three of them.  What conditions were necessary for a gold rush to occur?  What was special about the Klondike gold rush, compared to the others?
  3. What effect did the arrival of the North West Mounted Police have on Tlingit political power in the Yukon?

Primary Source Workshop (1 period)

We begin with a warm-up: ordeal by cheques! Then you will learn the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. We will work as a team trying to extract meaning and evaluate the reliability of textual (Robert Service) and photographic (golden stairs) primary sources.


  1. Are primary sources always more reliable than secondary sources? If yes, explain why.  If no, give an example of an unreliable primary source.

Mystery Quest: Should Your Cousin Seek Gold? (1 period, computers)

The goal of this activity is to gain a sense of social and environmental conditions during the Klondike Gold Rush.  Your task is to respond to a letter from your cousin asking for advice about joining the gold rush.


Go to the website http://www.mysteryquests.ca/quests/23/indexen.html  Read carefully through each section, and follow the links when it asks you to.  As you learn about Gold Rush conditions in section 1, fill out the “evaluating the conditions” worksheet.  As you learn about your cousin’s personality, complete the “personality profile” worksheet. Finally, fill in the “making a recommendation” worksheet to give you cousin your answer to his question.

Mystery Quest: Who Deserves the Credit? (2 periods, computers)

The Klondike Gold Rush all started with a discovery – but who was the discoverer?  In this activity you will analyze primary sources to make an argument about a controversial issue.


Go to the website http://www.mysteryquests.ca/quests/22/indexen.html.  Read carefully through each section, and follow the links when it asks you to.  As you gather information from each primary or secondary source, record your findings on the “identifying each person’s contribution” worksheet.  Based on your findings, answer the questions on the “assigning credit” worksheet.

The Impact of the Gold Rush on Yukon First Nations people (1 period)

Read this editorial from the Klondike Weekly, 1998: http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/klondike/context/firstnationshistory/4381en.html.


Citing the Klondike Weekly editorial, write a paragraph response to one of the following questions:

  1. On balance, was the Klondike gold rush beneficial or detrimental to Yukon First Nations people?
  2. What were some examples of racism towards native people during the Klondike gold rush?

Test (1 period)

The questions will be a subset of the following options:

Identify and state the significance of:

  • Rabbit Creek
  • Miles Canyon
  • Chilkoot Trail
  • Keish
  • George Carmacks
  • Robert Service
  • Dawson City
  • staking a claim
  • Northwest Mounted Police

Answer the following questions in paragraph form:

  • What were some impacts of the Klondike gold rush on Yukon First Nations people?
  • Who do you believe deserves the credit for discovering Yukon gold, and why?
  • What hardships did gold seekers face in their quest for the Klondike?
  • What is the difference between a primary, secondary, and tertiary source?  Give an example of each kind.