New $1 commemorative circulation coin tells tale of Klondike Gold Rush

The popular narrative of the Klondike Gold Rush is well known—Keish (Skookum Jim Mason) and his partners discover gold in Bonanza Creek, local prospectors become wealthy “Klondike Kings,” adventurers with dreams of striking it rich pour into the Yukon Territory by the thousands, Dawson City becomes a legendary boomtown and fortunes are made and lost.

On the 125th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the Klondike, the Royal Canadian Mint has issued a $1 commemorative circulation coin to “remind Canadians that there is a more complete story to tell: one that speaks to the impact on the Indigenous people who have inhabited the land for millennia,” according to a statement issued today by the Crown corporation.

Vancouver-based freelance illustrator Jori van der Linde designed the new $1 Klondike coin (coloured version shown).

Their displacement, the disruption of their culture and traditional ways of life plus widespread environmental damage are also legacies of the “last great gold rush”—as is the resilience of the Yukon First Nations who are reclaiming their traditional territory and who remain strong stewards and leaders in the Yukon today. This is the story shared on the new coin, which starts circulating nationwide today.

“The Mint is thankful to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Carcross/Tagish First Nations, as well as the Dawson City Museum for helping us tell a complete, shared story of the Klondike Gold Rush,” said Mintmaster Marie Lemay, who has served as the Mint’s president and CEO since 2019. “As this new coin circulates from coast to coast to coast, we hope that the social and environmental impacts of the Klondike discovery will become as well understood as its role developing the Yukon and transforming the Canadian economy.”

The new Klondike coin is available in a ‘keepsake card’ featuring both versions of the Klondike coin alongside uncirculated versions of Canada’s common 2021-dated circulation coins.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver added: “As central as the Klondike Gold Rush is to the Yukon’s fame and history, its portrayal has often been one-sided and reductive. The incorporation of the Carcross/Tagish and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations perspectives in the design and spirit of this coin represents a meaningful step in acknowledging a truth long missing from the Gold Rush story.”

The Mint is also offering limited-edition special wrap rolls (non-coloured version shown), each with 25 uncirculated Klondike coins.

KLONDIKE COIN DESIGN

Jori van der Linde, a freelance illustrator from Vancouver, designed the reverse of the new $1 coin.

It depicts the four people credited with the discovery of gold on Rabbit Creek that started the Klondike Gold Rush in August 1896—Keish (Skookum Jim Mason), K̲áa Goox̱ (Dawson Charlie), Shaaw Tláa (Kate Carmack) and her husband, George Carmack. On a hillside, an image represents the Moosehide Gathering place, where the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation relocated when it was displaced by the influx of gold rushers. It has become a critical symbol representing the community’s experience. The word “KLONDIKE” and the dates “1896” and “2021” also accompany the design.

A total of three million Klondike coins, including two million coloured versions (shown) and one million uncoloured versions, began circulating today.

“Skookum Jim was of the Daklaweidi Clan, and his relatives Kate Carmack, Patsy Henderson and Dawson Charlie were co-discoverers of the Gold Rush. We still use the Chilkoot Trail today and have Citizens that work there and look after it,” said Maria Benoit, the deputy chief of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. “Skookum Jim was a very prominent member of our First Nation and family member to many Citizens here. We’re very proud of his contributions and those of many of our Citizens during that period. We look at them as the first Carcross/Tagish First Nation entrepreneurs.”

While the Klondike Gold Rush transformed Yukon’s development and the Canadian economy as a whole, the flood of prospectors and adventurers also forever altered the land, uprooting and repressing the traditional ways of living of the Indigenous peoples who lived in the area for millennia before the arrival of settlers. Indigenous communities living in what became Yukon still grapple with this legacy today.

More information on the shared history of the Klondike is available at mint.ca/klondike.

“The Klondike Gold Rush was a world-changing event, and with it came more than a century of challenges for our First Nation. With the vision and foresight of our past leader, Chief Isaac, we were able to survive the decades of upheaval. He assured that we remained a resilient people,” said Roberta Joseph, the chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. “Today, we are proud to be a self-governing, First Nation government and leaders in our community and territory.”

A Mint employee inspects one of the two million coloured Klondike coins.

TWO MILLION COLOURED, ONE MILLION UNCOLOURED

The Mint will issue two million coloured versions and one million uncoloured versions of the coin beginning today.

The coloured coins show the Moosehide Gathering place icon in red.

The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Canadian artist Susanna Blunt in 2003.

The design is also available as a collector keepsake set featuring both versions of the commemorative circulation coin alongside uncirculated versions of Canada’s classic 2021 circulation coins (including the five-cent through $2 denominations). It retails for $24.95 and its mintage is set at 100,000.

The Mint also issued 17,000 special wrap rolls featuring the coloured and uncoloured versions, each containing 25 uncirculated coins and available for $79.95.

An exclusive $200 pure gold coin featuring a large-scale version of the Klondike coin’s reverse design and a mintage of 450 is also available for $3,999.95.

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