Chief Isaac and the mass media – by Dorota Kupis (Yukon News – September 28, 2017)

The Yukon’s earliest newspapers frequently treated the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in poorly

The Klondike Gold Rush altered the lives of several Yukon First Nations. The most affected were the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, living near Dawson City. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in came in contact with white people years before the gold rush. The first traders (Jack McQuesten, Frank Bonfield) arrived in their territories as early as 1874. Other than traders, early newcomers were missionaries and miners.

After gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek in 1896, enormous waves of white newcomers came to the Yukon. By 1898, about 40,000 people settled in Dawson City, the center of the Klondike Gold Rush, and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in living in this area became a minority in their traditional territories.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, who relocated to the little community of Moosehide, three kilometers downriver from the new town, had to adapt their lives to interact with the residents of Dawson City and miners working on the adjacent creeks.

It was a challenging task, and although the First Nation possessed brilliant and charismatic leaders, this period was full of various frustrations, in part because their way of life and worldview were completely different than those of settlers. This transition would have been even more painful without Chief Isaac.

Chief Isaac led his people for more than 30 years through the changes that altered their lives. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in saw Dawson City growing quickly from a tent camp to a big town with churches, banks, hospitals, dance halls and saloons. Three newspapers, the Klondike Nugget, the Dawson Daily News, and the Yukon Sun were printed in Dawson City as early as 1897.

Moosehide residents not only got their share of attention from the local press, but also used this form of media frequently and efficiently to communicate with the non-Native population living in Dawson City.

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