Skookum Jim's Discovery

Gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, on August 16, 1896. At the time, few prospected in the Klondike drainage, and only meager results had been obtained by those who had. One of the most dogged of these was Robert Henderson, who had found small amount of "color" on several creeks. By the summer of 1896, Henderson had been in the area for two years, and was working a claim on Gold Bottom Creek, fifteen miles from the mouth of the Klondike.

Skookum Jim, the Tagish Indian who had accompanied William Moore over White Pass nine years before, was the first to locate the pay dirt that commenced the gold rush. Jim had spent much of the time since 1887 in the company of Dawson Charlie and George Carmack. The three were relatives; Jim was Charlie's uncle, and Carmack, a white prospector from California, was married to Jim's sister. On August 14, the three were in the Klondike drainage, meandering west from Gold Bottom Creek. Jim killed a moose near Rabbit Creek that afternoon, then went to the creek for a drink. There he saw many golden flakes in the shallow waters. Excited as he must have been, he calmly butchered the moose, then showed the gold to his two partners. Upon seeing the size of their discovery, the three celebrated. They then spent the next two days perusing the creek for the most valuable deposits. Carmack, arguing that an Indian would not be allowed to record a discovery claim, stepped off the largest claim for himself, and secured an adjacent claim besides. His companions took the land on either side.

. . . Many suggest that Carmack is the legitimate discoverer of gold due to his ownership of the discovery claim, and Carmack himself proclaimed himself to the world as the gold discoverer. Many Canadians consider Robert Henderson, a Nova Scotian, to be the actual discoverer, because it was he who directed the three over to the Rabbit Creek drainage. Henderson had previously prospected the creek and found small colors. He was doubtless denied great riches himself because of his prejudice against Carmack's Native partners.

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