Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 15, 2003

Dick North receives his plaque from KVA President Father Tim Coonen. Photo by Palma Berger

Feature Stories

Dick North Honoured
A Tribute to Dawson's Namesake
Federal Fisheries Minister Treated to Yukon Hospitality
The New R.C.M.P. Detachment Building
Local Rider Does Well at the Whitehorse Horse Show
2003 Miner Of The Year Announced
Dawson's Literary Lions #2: Robert Service and the Little Cabin

Dick North Honoured

by Palma Berger

Writer Dick North, began to collect memorabilia of another author, Jack London. He had followed Jack London's trail to Dawson City.

His collection grew.

He knew that this famous writer was more famous outside the Yukon than in, so he went about with the support of many to establish a Jack London interpretive Centre in Dawson where his memorabilia could be displayed and visitors could learn of this part of the world's contribution to the art of this famous writer. He with the help of Dawne Mitchell, has brought the saga of Jack London alive to visitors and locals alike.

Klondike Visitors Association decided to honour Dick for all his good work. As this is one hundred years since the publication of Jack London's "Call of the Wild", it seemed an appropriate year. To this end a group of folk gathered at Jack London's Interpretive Centre where President of the Klondike Visitor's Association, Father Tim Coonen presented Dick with a lovely wall plaque with a painting of Jim Robb's rendition of Jack London's cabin and cache. Dick was quite moved, and in his acceptance speech he named all the people who had helped make his dream come true.

He also recalled his epic (for a city fellow) trip to London's cabin on Henderson Creek back in the 1960's, and how he had managed to track down the slab off the inside of London's cabin, and which bore London's signature.

His trip to the cabin was made in winter and by dog-team. Accompanying him was film star and supporter, Eddie Albert who had shown keen interest and given support for the trip. With the help of many the dog team and supplies were assembled. The leader of the group was Joe Henry, of the Han clan who had been a trapper all his life and knew the outdoors as nobody else did. They set off. Then the going got a little steeper and more difficult. Joe ordered Dick off the sled, and made him don snow shoes. He had to snow shoe for the first time in his life. Joe went ahead and broke trail After half an hour of this Dick realized that he, a 36 year old man, should not be following Joe. After all Joe was 70 years old. Dick suggested that he would go first and break trail and Joe would follow. With a twinkle in his eye, Joe agreed.

Here, the inexperienced Dick learned that if you go too slowly the lead dog following you would trip on your snow shoes. Dick admitted to being thrown five times before realizing that the more experienced Joe should take over.

But he survived, and many years later was able to stand on the verandah of the Interpretive Centre to receive his plaque of appreciation and enjoy the company of many who have know him over the years.

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A Tribute to Dawson's Namesake

by Dan Davidson


The new plaque honouring George Mercer Dawson. Photo by Dan Davidson

There have been many plaques erected around Dawson City over the last 30 years, but it has taken until this June for there to finally be a plaque in honour of Dawson's namesake, George Mercer Dawson.

This oversight was finally corrected through a generous donation by the Hougen family of Whitehorse and the efforts of the Klondyke Centennial Society, which laid the groundwork for this memorial when it established the Joseph Ladue plaque in 2002.

According to Jon Magnusson of the KCS, Rolf Hougen came to him with a proposal to erect a $10,000 bronze bust of Dawson.

As Hougen tells it, Magnusson had a counter proposal, a substantially cheaper memorial which would be a match for the Ladue plaque already erected on a large rock atop the dyke, at the high end of the flowered walkway known locally as Norm's Hump (after the superintendent of public works who commissioned it).

"I agreed with them," Hougen said in a telephone interview some weeks later. "I thought it was a great idea." It also cost a bit less, probably around $4,000 when all the bills are in, though that was not an issue.

The monument reads that it is placed in memory of Berent Hougen, one of the legions of gold seekers who lived in Dawson in the early years of the 20th century, but Rolf Hougen says there's more to it than that.

"That's true, yes, but we've had an association with Dawson for 50 some years. We've often gone to Dawson City and I've always loved it there.

"It's the reason the Yukon exists, you might say. I've always had a special place for Dawson in my heart."

What of Berent Hougen?

"My father, as a young sailor, ended up in Dawson City. Not at the gold rush, but in 1906. He spent three years there before migrating on to Alaska."

Rolf Hougen himself recalls many of the colourful characters, such as Black Mike, who used to enchant visitors to the Klondike. He recalls being on the dredges himself when they were in operation.

George Mercer Dawson was a most unusual man. Stricken with Pott's disease when just a boy, he scarcely grew taller after that and was left with a humpback created by a deformed spine. For some time after the illness he was confined to a wheelchair, but he refused to accept that fate, and set himself a tough life. He studied geology at McGill University and in England and was , by age 24, a member of the North America Boundary Commission, traipsing the woods to help define the line between Canada and the USA along the 49th parallel.

In 1875 he joined the Geological Survey of Canada and in 1887 he led a seven month reconnaissance of the land around all the Yukon's major rivers, including in his studies the Stikine, Dease, Liard, Frances, Pelly and, of course, the Yukon.

Dawson's report on the Yukon, in particular, was much in demand during the 1890's and on into the Gold Rush years. In The Little Giant, biographer Joyce Barkhouse writes that he was often called "Klondyke Dawson"

"Oddly enough, he was then sitting in his office in Ottawa, but it became known to the thousands of prospectors that his were the only maps available for the region. To possess a copy was thought to be the magic charm for ‘hitting it rich'." (Barkhouse, foreword)

Dawson lived only to the age of 51, but by then his name was splattered all over western Canada.

When Joe Ladue was trying to establish the townsite that would become Dawson City, he needed a surveyor. That man was William Ogilvie, who had accompanied Dawson as his surveyor in 1887. His fee for doing Ladue's survey was simple; he asked that the town be named after his boss, George Dawson. If Barkhouse has it right, it would have been Dawson himself who added the little dot with its name to the official maps of the territory a few weeks later.

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Federal Fisheries Minister Treated to Yukon Hospitality

by Tara Christie


Fisheries Minster Robert Thibault (at left) lunched with miners while he was in Dawson. Photo by Laurie Sthamann

Yukon hospitality has seldom been put to the test as it was July 25 when federal Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault came to call. Mr. Thibault's December 16, 2002 decision to eliminate the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA) has created months of anxiety, confusion, and stress for local placer mining families, whose anger has been directed squarely at the Minister and his advisors. Yet, from the moment the Minister stepped off the plane for his first-ever visit to the Yukon to the time of his departure, he and his entourage were treated with courtesy, respect, and the brand of northern hospitality that characterizes this part of the country.

"Frankly, I admire the Minister for accepting our invitation to come to the Yukon, speak with us on our own turf, and even spend some social time with us," said Tara Christie, president of the Klondike Placer Miners' Association (KPMA). "I think his coming here showed courage and character, qualities that bode well for the hard-slogging that's still ahead of us as we try to develop a replacement regime for the YPA."

The Minister made the most of his limited time, touring mining operations, viewing the Indian River Valley by helicopter, speaking with fishermen and other Yukon stakeholders, attending a meeting of the newly-formed Implementation Steering Committee (ISC) charged with developing a new regulatory regime, and speaking to more than 600 guests at the KPMA's 24th annual Barbecue and Dance.

Senator Ione Christensen, MP Larry Bagnell, Minister Lang, and Grand Chief Schultz accompanied the Minister on his tour of mining operations, along with representatives from KPMA, CYFN, YTG and DFO. The tour encompassed mining in the drainage basins that have accounted for over sixty percent of all the placer gold that has been produced (Bonanza, Klondike, Hunker, Dominion, Sulphur, and Indian River). Senator Christensen also convened the meeting of the ISC whose members represent the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Yukon Territorial Government, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and the KPMA.

Later in the evening, Minister Thibault told the large crowd gathered for the KPMA Barbecue that "the Government of Canada is committed to a strong and viable mining industry for the Yukon." He offered special thanks to Tara Christie whose efforts, he said, "led to all parties agreeing to develop a suitable transition plan."

He outlined three goals that he said would guide the ISC in its work:

  1. the new regime must be consistent with how DFO protects fish and fish habitat across the country;
  2. it must provide for a strong, viable placer industry and adequately protect fish and fish habitat; and
  3. the work must be timely, i.e. a draft plan for consideration should be ready by April, 2004.

In reference to the third point, Mr. Thibault said the placer mining industry needs a plan in place sooner rather than later, but confirmed that the had asked the ISC to consider, and they had agreed to, extending the YPA into 2004, based on progress in developing a transition plan.

In her remarks, Tara Christie thanked the Minister and his staff for coming and praised them for their efforts to learn more about the importance of placer mining to the Yukon, both as a livelihood and a way of life. However, she cautioned miners that the road ahead remains a long one. "Make no mistake, " she said, "The path before us is long and expensive. Your continued moral and financial support will be vital." She recognized the countless hours of volunteer time that mining and Dawson families have devoted to keeping the industry's concerns on Ottawa's radar screen, and encouraged miners to remain vigilant in their efforts. "Over the next year, until April 2004, and for the four years leading up to the 2007 deadline to eliminate the YPA, we must ensure that our work on the ISC results in a new regulatory regime that keeps our industry viable as it protects the Yukon's fisheries resources. We have a much better chance of success if we share the load," she said.

Tr'ondëk Hwëtch'in Chief Darren Taylor opened the ceremonies at the Friday evening event, welcoming the Minister and special guests to his people's traditional territory and underlining the importance of placer mining to First Nations' economic development aspirations. Yukon Territorial Government Minister Archie Lang and Grand Chief Ed Schulz were also on hand to welcome the Ottawa visitors. Minister Thibault expressed his respect for Grand Chief Schultz, pointing out that Chief Schultz is the only politician he knows who was elected with a 98 per cent approval rating.

While the Ministerial visit seems to have been successful on a number of fronts - not the least of which was allowing Yukon miners to demonstrate their level-headedness under fire - the development of a replacement regime for the YPA is still barely under way. "We're glad the Minister came; I'm incredibly proud of how we greeted him as Yukoners; and we should be encouraged that a process is under way to come up with a new regime," said KPMA president Christie. "But I don't want anyone to think that any of our problems have been solved yet. There's a long way to go. We're going to have to invest more time and more money than any of us ever expected. And the process could go off the rails at any time. It's going to take every ounce of resolve we can muster to keep this going forward and to arrive at a regime we can all live with."

Christie, who was named 2003 Miner of the Year at the KPMA barbecue, encouraged all miners to attend the KPMA Annual General Meeting August 29 with a view to electing strong leaders who can bring energy and determination to what remains a daunting task.

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The New R.C.M.P. Detachment Building

by Palma Berger


It's just a hole in the ground, but it'll soon be a brand new detachment building. Photo by Palma Berger

Dawson City's favourite past time of the last few years seem to be moving and/or replacing buildings. It seemed to be off to a slow start this year, but by the beginning of May the momentum caught on. This time it is the R.C.M.P. detachment building on Front street that is to be replaced.

This site has seen many buildings come and go over the years, as in some of the houses that have been there. Harry Campbell of Klondike Transport has moved a few of them away, and can remember where each of them have gone to..

When the existing building was to be erected in the late ‘50's Harry Campbell was just starting up his hauling and later heavy equipment business. He recalls hauling the gravel from Mayo to be the fill .Again this year he has the contract for the use of his equipment to do the digging and excavating, and filling and packing it all down. It would seem he is permanently attached to the spot.

The building that is there has withstood several floods; the worst was in 1979. The floods have left behind a silt and a presence of mould with which the members of the R.C.M.P. have lived for many years.

Lack of space was another inconvenience that was bothersome. As the town is more open to more travelers and operations from Outside, a stronger police presence is required. To carry out their increasing responsibilities the force needed a better designed building.

The Federal government awarded the contract for building to TSL Contracting , a Whitehorse based company. This company had built the Carmacks R.C.M.P. substation, so they were used to the requirements of the R.C.M.P.

In the process of moving sections, and the digging and the installing of a basement and all of its works, there is the constant noise and distractions. But the detachment had nowhere else to move to. They have to carry on in the remaining section of the detachment. But the heavy work should be completed this year, and with the winter months to finish off all the interior work, they hope to move in by April next year.

The number of cells will be increased from two to four. There will be space for office staff and clients. More space for the visitors? It sounds more welcoming already.

The new building will cost $2.4 million dollars. The design of the building and area is in keeping with historic Dawson. Well not quite. The original detachment at the turn of the last century had the gallows in the yard behind the wire fence. The gallows are not going to be rebuilt.

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Local Rider Does Well at the Whitehorse Horse Show

Submitted by Sylvie Gammie


Some of the riders in the Klondike Horseman's Association. Photo by Sylvie Gammie

Julia Fellers, member of the Klondike Horseman's Association, recently represented Dawson City at the Yukon Horse & Rider Annual Horse Show, held in Whitehorse on July 18 — 20, 2003. Other riders competing in this show hailed from Whitehorse, Atlin, B.C., as well as Juneau, Alaska.

The weekend was a busy one for Julia, who took two horses to the show, Jazzamataz and Tawny, and competed with both, in different classes of course.

Julia came away with several first and second place ribbons, and did Dawson proud! Congratulations Julia!!

Dawson's Own Horse Show Coming Up

The Klondike Horseman's Association is once again preparing for their annual horse show, with the help of the Dawson City Bits n' Bridles Horse 4-H Club.

The 7th Annual Klondike Classic Open Horse Show will be held on Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24. This year's event will be held at the brand new Top of the World Equestrian Center, right across from the golf course in Sunnydale.

Dressage and English flat classes will start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. After lunch, riders will compete in several jumping classes, ranging from the Walk Trot Equitation Over Poles, for beginner riders, to the Open Hunter class, with jumps not to exceed 3 feet in height.

The Musical Freestyle Extravaganza will be held at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. Riders of all ages dress up (yes, horses too!) and perform a choreographed routine to their favourite song. The result is always highly entertaining, and tons of fun! Plan to attend — you won't want to miss it!

On Sunday morning, starting at 8:30 a.m., Halter and Showmanship will be held, followed by Western classes. Many riders will also be testing their skills on the trail course — taking the horse through a gate, over a bridge, backing around barrels, sidepassing over poles, etc. Gymkhana events will take place after lunch — barrel racing, keyhole and stake races, and the always popular whisky race (adults only, please!).

We strongly encourage spectators to drop in throughout the weekend. A concession will be open during show hours, and we will have covered bleachers for the comfort of our spectators. Come on out and cheer on our riders! The Klondike Horseman's Association and the Bits n' Bridles Horse 4-H Club would like to take this opportunity to thank all the businesses and individuals who have sponsored classes and prizes for this year's horse show. Your continuing support is truly appreciated!!

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2003 Miner Of The Year Announced

At the Klondike Placer Miners' Association Annual Barbecue and Dance held in Dawson City on Friday, July 25, the KPMA announced this year's Miner of the Year.

For more than 20 years, the KPMA has honoured one of its own with an award called "Mr. & Mrs. Miner." The award is the highest honor the association bestows on a placer mining couple or person for extraordinary contributions to the Yukon Placer Industry and the KPMA.

This year, Ms. Tara Christie receives the Mr. & Mrs. Miner Award, making her "2003 Miner of the Year."

Currently President of the KPMA, Tara is a working partner in Gimlex Gold Mines with her parents, Jim and Dagmar Christie, and her brother, Sheamus. She holds two degrees from the University of British Columbia, a Bachelor of Applied Science in Geological Engineering, and a Master's degree in Geological Engineering with a specialty in geotechnical and geochemistry. She maintained honours throughout her post secondary career, winning over 30 scholarships and prizes. She graduated at the top of her class in geological engineering and was awarded the Dr. Aaro E. Aho Gold Medal and honorarium

and the APEGBC award for demonstrating great promise.

In 2001, Tara became President of the Klondike Placer Miners' Association to help guide the mandated review of the Yukon Placer Authorization. She showed an amazing capacity for taking on any challenge with remarkable optimism. Tara courageously carried the message of responsible placer mining to many Yukon communities and First Nations governments in the hopes of developing lasting working relationships with the industry. She completed the review of the YPA and, against all odds, helped forge a consensus with the very divergent groups on the Yukon Placer Committee.

When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced his decisions to withdraw the YPA on December 16, 2002, the whole placer industry was thrown into a tailspin. Tara's optimism and unfailing faith in reason and the good will of Canadians wouldn't let her give up. She threw herself into the challenge of injecting common sense into the politicians and the public. She travelled tirelessly between Ottawa, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Dawson City,

and the family's mine on Dominion -- advocating the message of responsible placer mining balanced with sound environmental protection practices.

Tara is adept at all aspects of placer mining and exploration, and is as comfortable at the keyboard of a computer as she is at the controls of an excavator. She has been working alongside her family for most of her life -- planning and running exploration programs, mapping, scheduling, managing crews, and operating mining equipment. Tara has proven herself to be a brilliant and determined negotiator and lobbyist. She has shown patience, diligence, and humour in the face of overwhelming odds. Throughout the last year, Tara Christie has done the impossible: she has put the Klondike on the map in Ottawa. The KPMA and the placer mining community owe Tara a debt of gratitude.

We are proud to honor Tara M. Christie, B. A.Sc., M. A.Sc. as "2003 Miner of the Year"

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Dawson's Literary Lions #2: Robert Service and the Little Cabin

by Dan Davidson


Johnny Nunan strikes a Service-style pose at the cabin. Photo by Dan Davidson

There's a little log cabin on 8th Avenue in Dawson City which is visited by tens of thousands of people every summer. The man often called the bard of the Yukon lived there from 1909 to 1912, and wrote a famous poem about it when he left it for good to go cover the Balkan Wars. Those three years made the place famous and guaranteed its future as a Parks Canada site.

Robert W. Service wrote so much poetry about the Gold Rush period that a lot of people don't realize he didn't make it too the Yukon until well after the rush had ended, at the tale end of a North American sojourn that had seen him in various parts of British Columbia and the Pacific western states. Having walked away from his training as a bank clerk, he had tried to become a cowboy, had wandered the countryside, had been a tutor in a house of negotiable affection, and had finally reentered the banking world in Victoria, B.C. before being transferred to Whitehorse in 1904.

It was there that he penned the first of his most famous poems, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and the others that made up that first collection of verse, Songs of a Sourdough. All of this was based on tales he'd heard, and some of them were clearly situations that could not have happened in the Yukon, but they were a runaway success.

It wasn't until 1908 that he was transferred to Dawson, and during his first year there he produced Ballads of a Cheechako, sent off to the publisher in the fall of that year.

In 1909 the bank tried to promote him back to Whitehorse, and this is where the destinies of Robert Service and the cabin came together. Thanks to his books Service had independent means. He chose to take a chance on his talent and leave banking. He wasn't finished with the Klondike yet, so that meant he had to find a place to live.

Parks Canada identifies the two room cabin owned then by Edna B. Clarke, as a vintage1897-98 structure. Service rented it from her, holed up in it for much of that year and churned out his first novel, The Trail of ‘98.

He rambled south for a spell and then returned to the cabin to set down another poetry collection, Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, inscribing his first drafts on rolls of wallpaper and pinning them up all around the main room before transferring them to paper on his typewriter. It was another best seller.

Then Service left for good, one what may have been the last boat out of Dawson in 1912. He knew he was leaving, because "Good-bye Little Cabin", that sentimental farewell verse, is the third last verse in his final Dawson book, which was a hard one to write.

"O dear little cabin, I've loved you so long, And now I must bid you good-bye!

I've filled you with laughter, I've thrilled you with song And sometimes I've wished I could cry. Your walls they have witnessed a weariful fight, And rung to a won Waterloo:

But, oh, in my triumph I'm dreary tonight --God-bye, little cabin, to you."

Within five years the Imperial Order of the Daughter of the Empire were promoting tours of the place, with the owner's reluctant acquiescence. After the war they furnished the place in Gold Rush style. For a time it was owned by the City of Dawson, which eventually handed it over to Parks Canada. At that point it was restored to the period look of Service's actual occupancy, and became an interpreted site.

For many years Tom Byrne was the recognized voice of the bard in Dawson, until he parted company with Parks over a contract dispute and set up his own show on Front Street, now relocated to the Westmark Hotel. After two years service with a contract employee, a Service fan from New Brunswick named Charlie Davis, Parks stopped contracting out and assigned the job to one of their summer employees.

For the last two summer Johnny Nunan has been interpreting the life and works of Robert Service at the cabin, including in his entertaining presentation a bit of information about the other literary figures who happen to have memorials on the same street, Jack London and Pierre Berton.

Nunan holds forth twice daily at the cabin, midmorning and mid-afternoon. There is a small charge for the show itself, but simply walking up to the cabin and looking around is free to the public.

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