General goals: To introduce students to the Klondike Gold Rush story and help them develop their organization and presentation skills.
Curriculum links: Applications of Social Studies: It is expected that students will organize information into sequenced presentations that include a beginning, middle and end.
Materials and equipment: Each group needs a print-out of one part of the gold rush story (attached) cut into pieces as shown, a sheet of Bristol board, glue, crayons, pencil crayons or markers.
Introduction: Briefly outline the story of the Klondike Gold Rush with the class. If you live in the Yukon, you might begin by asking students what they know about the gold rush already.
Activity: Divide the class into groups of three or four, and give each group the pieces of one part of the gold rush story. Students are to arrange the pieces in the correct order, make a poster by gluing them on Bristol board and illustrating their part of the story.
Conclusion: Groups take turns presenting their "chapter" so that the presentations form a coherent telling of the Klondike Gold Rush story. Display the posters on the classroom wall.
Extension: Have students create a simple time-line for the Klondike Gold Rush using the dates in the posters they have made. It can be illustrated if time allows.
The Hän and the Gold Rush
Before the Klondike Gold Rush, the people who lived in the Klondike River area spoke Hän, a northern Athapaskan language. They spent part of every summer at the mouth of the Klondike River fishing for salmon, one of their most important food resources.
They knew there was gold in the gravel nearby but it had no value to them because it was too soft to make weapons or tools and no one they traded with valued it.
The gold rush changed life for the Hän forever. The land where they hunted and fished was full of people looking for gold and a town was built near their best fishing spot. They no longer traded their furs for a grubstake but instead sold meat and fish to the citizens of Dawson City.
Their leader, a wise man named Chief Issac, decided to move his people out of Dawson City to a new community called Moosehide to try to preserve some part of the way of life they led before the gold rush.
Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie and their non-native in-law George Carmack started the Klondike Gold Rush. They found gold on Bonanza Creek in the summer of 1896.
When they realized how much gold there was they got very excited. They started to whoop and cheer and do a crazy dance.
They each staked a claim and then George went down the Yukon River to Forty Mile to register the claims.
George was known to tell a lot of tall tales so at first nobody believed that he really had found gold. When he showed them some of his gold people could see he was telling the truth.
Suddenly everyone was very excited. They all rushed to stake claims on Bonanza Creek. Joe Ladue, a trader on the Yukon River, staked a town site beside the Klondike River so that the miners would have a place to buy food and supplies.
That was the beginning of Dawson City and the Klondike Gold Rush.
The World Finds Out
In July 1897, a ship docked in Seattle with a cargo of over one ton of gold. It was like a treasure ship from a fairy tale!
Thousands of people crowded onto the dock to watch the miners carry their bags and boxes of gold off the ship.
At that time, a lot of people did not have jobs or very much money. The sight of all that gold was like a siren call for them.
Many people decided to go north to find gold for themselves.
People who went north for the gold rush were called Klondike stampeders.
The first part of the trip to the Klondike was to take a ship north to the ports of Skagway or Dyea.
When the stampeders landed they chose to hike over the mountains through either the White or Chilkoot passes. It was hard work because they had to carry or pull sleds with all their supplies and tools.
Nobody could carry all their belongings in one trip and most people had to hike the trail about 14 times!
After the hike the stampeders had to build boats and go down the Yukon River through some very dangerous rapids.
Children had to walk around the rapids on the shore because they were so dangerous.
Once people were through the rapids the worst part of the trip was over and they raced down the river to Dawson City.
When the stampeders finally arrived in Dawson City, they found a rough little boom town that was still being built. The streets were so muddy that horses sometimes sank up to their knees!
Sawmills worked day and night and new buildings were being built everywhere. The streets were full of people. Some who had just arrived were going out to the creeks and others, having failed to find gold, were selling their outfits to go back home.
The successful miners had a lot of gold, and they spent it in the dance halls, restaurants, hotels and stores in Dawson.
Many of the stampeders decided to stay in Dawson for a couple of years and make money selling things to the miners.
A lot of people left Dawson in 1899 when gold was found at Nome, Alaska. That was the end of the Klondike Gold Rush but not the end of Dawson City. People are still living and mining there today.