Kate knew where her wealth was.

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Well-written and extensively researched bio not only of the eponymous Kate Carmack but of the Tagish culture in whose backyard the Klondike gold rush erupted. Vanesse writes

…like an incantation of magic, the very word Klondike invokes abundance, the vindication of the American dream and the triumph of the individual in its most measurable manifestation: wealth.

Not so magical for Kate, a Tagish woman whose white husband abandons her Outside. Her brother brings her home, and Vanesse writes

[Kate] knew where her wealth was–not in Seattle or California, not in George Carmack’s bank accounts, or his hotel, or his Microbane Medical stock. It was right there in the Yukon, with Jim and Graphie and Mary and all of her family. Among Animal Mother’s mountains, she knew the right ways to act, surrounded by those who loved her always, the Dakl’aweidi and the Deisheetaan.

I’d heard that story that Kate, not her husband, had been the first to find the gold that started the rush, and I am choosing to believe it even if we do get it only secondhand. What could be more mundane than finding a handful of gold nuggets in the soapy water of your dishpan? It sounds more likely than any of the many stories George told about it.

In these covid-19 times it is interesting that Kate died of the Spanish flu, the post World War I influenza pandemic that took at least 50 million lives worldwide. What is sobering is is that the Spanish flu’s existence was first recorded in March 1918. Kate died in March 1920, two full years later.

One thing I especially wanted to mention: I really liked the way the story of Kohklux and Seward foreshadowed the story of the Nantuck Boys. The first story is well known to even the most cursory reader of Alaskan history; the second, not so much but every bit as worthwhile and illustrative of the clash of cultures wrought by the Gold Rush.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the reminder about the 1918 “Spanish” flu pandemic. Which offered valuable lessons, if our own medical people (and Politicians!) had heeded them. Observe quarantines! Wear masks! Keep your distance from sick people. Pretty basic, shoe-leather stuff.

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