Discovery Claim National Historic Site | Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site | Former Territorial Court House National Historic Site | S.S. Keno National Historic Site | Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site | Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park


Dawson City is a lively town that is passionate about its history and people. The Klondike National Historic Sites are scattered throughout the community and in the Klondike goldfields. Meet a variety of locals and hear why they love the Klondike and its historic places.

Klondike National Historic Sites, Where the Past is Present

Transcript

Parks Canada beaver logo

Title: Klondike National Historic Sites

Title: Where the Past is Present

fade from black to show panorama of Dawson City and the Yukon River

[Lisa Favron and her husband walking to Discovery Claim sign] Title: Discovery Claim National Historic Site

My name is Lisa Favron and I was born and raised in the Yukon.

[close-up of Bonanza Creek running] title: Discovery Claim National Historic Site

I’ve been living here in Dawson City since 1992.

Lisa Favron and husband running sand from the creek through their hands

close-up of their hands with sand in creek

There’s quite a bit of family history, my great grandfather came over from Finland on a boat

historic photo of many people climbing the Chilkoot trail

when he heard about the gold rush and they hiked the Chilkoot Pass and

historic photo of 2 miners goldpanning

historic map of the Klondike goldfields

When my great grandfather was mining, all of the mining was done by hand.

Any dirt that you moved, was moved with a pail and a shovel.

If you had to dig a trench, you dug it by hand.

historic photo of several miners on a claim

historic photo of 2 men goldmining

My name is Neil Loveless, I’m originally from the Yukon. I’ve got family that’s been here for over a hundred years.

Neil driving an excavator at a mine, scooping dirt into the bucket and dumping it

The excavator dumping dirt into a large dump truck

The mining over the past 100 years has adapted and changed lots.

It started as hand shafts and guys panning for gold

on big adventurous hopes that they were going to find lots at the bottom of deep holes.

historic photo of miner with a windlass

historic photo of 2 miners goldpanning

Then it changed over time as the gold became harder to find,

they went towards dredges which were the bigger, larger, more industrial setups.

historic photo of a dredge, tailing piles and a building

historic footage working dredge buckets scooping up dirt

The dredge was a very interesting machine, as it runs off water and gravity –

and it’s still very similar to the machines we use today.

Joe Boyle and the guys of the old, they would have been amazing thinkers

and great big schemers as what it took to get these dredges here.

The thought of even doing that today,

let alone with the roads and the infrastructure we have now… it’s still a mind-boggling feat that they were able to do that.

historic footage of man watching the dredge working

Neil Loveless with gold mine in background

Historically the mining done by the dredges was to simply go in and turn the creek upside down.

They knew that the gold was on the bedrock at the bottom of the creek.

So how do you get that is you dig out the bottom and put it on top.

historic photo of dredge

historic photo of buckets full of dirt

historic photo of a dredge in an icy creek

My grandfather was dredge master for years. He has stories for all of the fingers on his hands

because he broke every finger he had at a different time.

He had a shovel finger. He had a trommel finger.

I think I have more memories of the dredge than any other part of placer mining in the Yukon.

historic photo of men on the dredge

historic photo of the dredge

Lisa Favron with mine in background

And the fact that so much effort is being put into the preservation and

the restoration of these historic sites makes me want to be a part of that too.

It makes me proud to have that heritage behind me and to be a part of it.

Lisa and her husband standing in front of the dredge. Title: Dredge No.4 National Historic Site

group of workers with hard hats and safety vests walking deside the dredge discussing work being done

close-up of the wokers in safety gear discussing the work

view looking down the Yukon River

I’m Jesse Cooke and I’m from Windsor Ontario.

When the stampeders arrived in Dawson, I don’t think they had any idea of what to expect.

close-up of Jesse driving down Dawson street

I think my generation of people were coming here for the adventure also not knowing what to expect once they got here, and that was definitely the case for myself.

historic photo of people walking in the street

The guys that I most admire, well there’s lots of them from the gold rush.

historic photo of Joe Ladue

Joe Ladue is a great example of an entrepreneur I mean he was the first one, in that all the stampeders were rushing off to Bonanza Creek

to stake claims, and here’s this guy staking up a swamp with the idea of turning it into a town site.

historic photo of busy street during the gold rush, lots of banners, signs for businesses on buildings, people in the street

historic photo of early Dawson, tents and few buildings

map of Dawson city lots

And he subdivided town lots and sold them off and made his fortune that way. Not only making money

but responding to a serious need, which was where are we going to put all these people.

historic photo of Dawson from north

historic photo of Dawson from the south end

bow of S.S. Keno with Jim Williams on 2nd deck title: S.S. Keno National Historic Site

I’m Jim Williams and I’m from Southern California and I’m a carpenter here in Dawson City.

Jim's hands feeling the wood of the sternwheeler

Jim walking along the deck, feeling the wood grain

Parks Canada approached me and they were in the process of restoring the Keno and

they wanted somebody that had some experience.

A lot of the carpentry and stuff I found to be as light as possible, everything was scaled for weight.

pan of Jim walking through the interior of the boat

All the structural members would be fir but it would be scaled down to just the minimum size.

pan of freight deck of the boat, with supplies

These boats were primarily trucks, the primary thing was freight.

When you go to the Keno now, you’ll see that there are some rooms available but the main floor is really just freight.

pan of valves in the engine room

Because of the goldfields and the constant need for materials out there,

the shipping and freighting business was pretty organized early on.

pan of engine room

historic photo of Keno being launched into the river

historic photo of young men working on the Keno

historic photo of the dock in Dawson

And it was just a constant flow of materials during the summertime on those riverboats.

And if you look at old photographs of Dawson, you just see the docks are full of boats.

historic photo of sternwheelers and dock with crowds of people

Georgette McLeod with an Elder by the Yukon river

My name is Georgette McLeod and I’m from Dawson City.

Before the gold rush, the Tr'ondëk Hwëchin lived in this area along the

Klondike River here and then they lived further down along the Yukon River in various locations.

Georgette standing by the Klondike river

historic photo of tents by the river

historic photo of fish drying on traditional wooden racks with First nation girls

First Nation man with fish on a stick

They spent most of their time during the summer months fishing for salmon.

The salmon that ran through this area during that time period was like gold to them.

historic photo of a man holding a large salmon

When the gold rush started the Tr'ondëk Hwëchin had to change their way of life.

They switched from a traditional economy of trade and moved into a wage economy to be able to live the

the lifestyle that had changed. They weren’t self-sustaining in a way anymore.

historic photo of indigenous family in western clothes in front of canvas tent

historic photo of First Nation men in suits with supplies

historic photo of First Nation people at a wood camp

historic photo of First nation people at a gathering

Georgette and FN girls walking across the lawn in front of the cultural centre

From the time of the gold rush to now I think things have improved substantially.

close-up of Georgette talking to the girls

Even though there is a large part of our history and our culture and knowledge has been lost

there are great efforts to try and bring the language and the culture back.

Georgette and the girls sitting in front of the cultural centre

frames of wooden elements of the BNA bank

the Bank of British North America

gold rush era buildings leaning against each other

You could tell in the architecture that this was a frontier gold rush town.

I mean, there was the gaudiness of all the architectural details,

the mouldings and all that kind of stuff and the buildings, but at the same time

there was this kind of civilizing footprint on this wild wilderness

that was here.

pan of gold rush era St. Andrews church

close up of St. Andrews church

pan of the elegant Commissioner's Residence

pan of restored living room in the Commissioner's Residence

pan of Commissioner's office in the residence

Old Post Office

Thomas Fuller was a government architect sent up here, I think it was about 1902 or somewhere around there.

He was the designer of some of the major government buildings in the town,

the Post Office being my favourite of the Fuller buildings,

close-up of architecture on the old post office

pan wooden interior of the old Post Office with Jim walking through

close-up of post office boxes

you’re overwhelmed by the detail of the woodwork inside. The wickets and where you’ve got your

post office boxes and all that kind of stuff is just… the work is marvellous really.

close-up of old mail and packages

close-up of wood working tools

I started copying and imitating some of his combinations of mouldings

and different angles that he would use to accomplish what he was trying to do.

close-up of woodworking drawing

Jim working in his shop

My name is Maria Sol Suarez Martinez. I’m from Argentina originally.

I went to design school and then I specialized in millinery and

I ended up here and contrary to what everybody would think, I actually found

employment making hats in this tiny town of 2000 people.

Maria working on her hats

close-up of putting pins in the hat

close--up of her pin cushion

pan of hats

Maria fitting a hat on a woman

At some point in the gold rush era, Dawson City was called the Paris of the north.

Even though there were mud streets, people had beautiful clothes and beautiful shoes and hats.

historic photo of finely dressed shop keepers

historic photo of women in fancy gold rush era dress

And I guess it was a real need for luxury because some people were

making money and you are in the middle of nowhere, so where do you spend it?

historic photo of a group of people

historic photo of people in the street in hats

If I was to relate to somebody from the gold rush, a historical figure, it would be Madame Tremblay.

She had the vision to open a shop for all the ladies that ended up here.

historic photo of a woman in a room with a piano

historic photo of a woman and children outside the store

Maria looking in the window of Mme. Tremblay's store

She imported things from Paris, really beautiful, delicate things.

Maria Sol sitting on the verandah of the historic Commissioner's Residence with 2 interpreters in historic tea dresses drinking tea as one interpreter approaches

I see myself kind of reflected in that, just trying to make a little bit of room for myself and what

I like in my trade I guess… and even if we are in the middle of nowhere and there’s a lot of things

that make life a lot different from a city, there’s still certain luxuries that we can have.

And even if it seems a little bit weird, we can make room for it, we can make it happen.

close-up of Maria sipping tea

close-up of woman in period dress

close-up of woman in period dress sipping tea

pan of woman on verandah talking

My name is Halin de Repentigny, I was born in Montreal. I came up here in 1981.

close-up of paint brush painting

I’d never seen a picture of Dawson, I’d come to the Yukon without knowing anything about the Yukon.

I didn’t know about the gold rush.

close-up of Halin

close-up of paint pallette

Halin painting

paintbrush signing an H on a painting

One of the jobs I would do, I was probably better with a paintbrush that with a hammer, so I ended up doing sign painting.

photo of the Red Feather saloon in poor condition prior to restoration

I did the Red Feather Saloon, not just but, the whole corner –

the whole new building and there was quite a few signs there.

Halin walking in front of restored Red Feather Saloon

And what I discovered when I did the Red Feather Saloon… they would do most of the sign painting inside a shop, on paper,

and then send the labourer to put that paper on the wall and with a little wheel, a tracing wheel,

they would like make holes all through the letter and with a little pouch of chalk,

they would copy that pattern and the labourer would paint the thing.

Halin speaking

And when I did the Red Feather Saloon I could see in the old boards all those little holes that were left there.

And I said, this is so ironic – a hundred years later I’m the labourer now doing it.

pan of Red Feather Saloon sign on building

Pan of Palace Grand Theatre

I did the Grand Palace, I did the mural.

Halin standing on the stage of the Palace Grand Theatre while the backdrop he painted roles down

Dawson is… there’s a lot of energy in this town. I think the energy remained… something stayed in the

air from the gold rush. I mean you look at it, 40,000 people, it must have been a hell of a party and that still….

you still can feel it. You still can feel it. After that many years here I can probably paint

any corner of this town from memory… characters included.

close-up of Halin and painted backdrop

Halin walking back on stage to look at backdrop

I’ve never been really good at putting my thoughts and feelings into words and

sometimes when I read Jack London or Robert Service, I mean, their words are my feelings and

I didn’t even know I had them until I heard the words, and then it all makes sense.

pan of Robert Service's log cabin title: Robert Service Cabin

historic photo of Robert Service in front of cabin

So when you read Robert Service, when I read Robert Service, the subject matter was sort of

gold rush wild but the way he wrote it was more civilized, you know,

so you got this kind of contrast between what he was writing about and how he wrote it.

pan of items inside the cabin, including his typewriter

"

There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales

" "

That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, But the queerest they ever did see

" "

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee.

"

a painting of a winter scene

People used to read this stuff aloud in the family, because they didn’t have radios and televisions,

so you know the dad would read a poem in the evening or several poems in the evening. So it was common and I think that’s one reason why he wrote poems like he did,

in that kind of doggerel style. You know, it’s not very complicated, it’s not very esoteric, it’s sort of entertaining, kind of a song.

Jim sitting on the steps of the cabin

Our elders are our history and our university. They are the holders of the knowledge of the land and

it’s important to take it in and share it with others. Now that people my age and younger are getting educated about their history,

I think it’s helping them to reach back into their culture.

Georgette sitting on a bench by the river with Elders

close-up of Georgette and Elders talking

boat leaving shore in river as Georgette and children walk along

It’s important for me to raise my family in a setting like in Dawson and along the Yukon River.

It brings out the best in them in, exploring their own land. We can talk about things that I’ve done as a child.

I can talk about my family and I can share those stories with them and have those experiences with,

when we have a chance to be at places such as this.

historic photo of Dawson from the other side of the Yukon River

fade into modern Dawson from same view

The historic nature of this town is a big part of everybody’s life here.

What I like about it is that it’s a real life town, it’s not just a ghost town, it’s not just a museum with a façade.

>people talking on the street

These buildings are lived in, these old cowboy buildings that you see, they’re lived in, there’s real businesses and

real people and that’s a lot of fun, that’s a huge part of our culture here,

and that’s a huge part of the reason why I love it here.

Jesse talking in front of building

I think everybody feels very proud of the heritage;

even people like me who just came here a few years ago rather than was born here.

Everybody feels pretty proud of their town and it’s not hard to love it very quickly.

Maria and Intepreters talking and laughing

Maria talking to the camera

What I like in the summertime, is watching the people walk all over the place…

walk in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk

and stuff like that and it really makes me feel that all of a sudden I’m back in that gold rush time because,

if you look at the old photographs, there’s just people everywhere, in the middle of the streets and

Dawson gets like that, it really gives you a sensation that you’re…

you’ve stepped back in time in a way and with the old buildings it just adds a perfect backdrop for all that.

Jim sitting on steps talking

photo of Parks Canada guided tour in the street

photo of parks Canada tour outside an historic building

photo of people outside Robert Service's cabin

photo of Parks Canada guided tour in the street

Jim talking and sitting on the steps

man walking in front of the Dawson Daily News historic building

fade into historic photo of the same view of building with man

photo of Parks Canada guided tour entering the Red Feather Saloon

Halin and friend standing at the bar inside the saloon

fade into historic photo of the same view of building with people

photo of tour entering the Dredge

photo of child touching the machinery on the dredge

Neil in the winchroom moving a gear

fade into historic photo of man in the same position

photo of Parks Canada guided tour in front of the Cultural Centre

Georgette and Elders standing by the Yukon River

fade into historic photo of First Nation men in the same position

photo of people infront of the Discovery Claim sign

Lisa turning the windlass on Discovery Claim

fade into historic photo of man in same position

photo of Parks Canada guided with S.S. Keno in the background

photo of people walking aboard the S.S. Keno

Jim walking on balcony of the second deck of the S.S. Keno

fade into historic photo of man in the same position

photo of Mme. Tremblay's store

Maria walking in front of the store

fade into historic photo of Mme. Tremblay in the same position

Jesse walking across the street

fade into historic photo of a man in the same position

fade to black

credits