NEUFIELD, David





The Chilkoot Trail: Heritage Route to the Klondike (Lost Moose $19.95)
Article



At the beginning of the 19th century, the coastal Tlingit were a wealthy and powerful group who took advantage of their rich environment to foster strong communities and a sense of cultural identity.
David Neufield and Frank Norris' The Chilkoot Trail: Heritage Route to the Klondike (Lost Moose $19.95) highlights the significance of the Chilkoot Trail to the Tlingit while marking the centennial of the Klondike gold rush.
“The Tlingit flourished by working an extensive coastal trading network,” write Neufield and Norris. “Each community had its own strengths.”
The Tlingit of the Lynn Canal, for example, controlled travel routes through the Coast Mountains to the continental interior. As early as 1887 the Chilkoots were compelling every miner to pay toll for crossing their land.
When Frederick Schwatka's Tlingit guide didn't receive payment for his services in 1883, he exacted revenge in an unusual fashion. “I will take your name and use it as long as I live,” he told his employer. The guide was known for the rest of his days as George Schwatka.
When the gold rush ended, it took three decades before officials in the Skagway area began to consider preserving the route in the early 1930s. Because the route passed through two nations, separate arrangements had to be worked out in each country.
In 1967, the National Park Service and Parks Canada began to study various gold rush sites. On the American side, a bill establishing Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was signed into law in 1976. Parks Canada began work in the area in the early 1970s, but it wasn't until 1993 that the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site was established.
Today, land ownership in the trail corridor has become the subject of land claims. The Tlingit of Taku River and the Carcross Tagish First Nations have both filed claims over the trail area.

[BCBW 1997]