Author: Warren Woytuck
Series Editor: Roland Case
A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 1416
On August 16, 1896, a few kilometres east of the present town of Dawson on a creek that flowed into the Klondike River, a prospector turned over a rock and found gold as thick as cheese. This discovery launched one of the greatest gold rushes in world history.
What made the Klondike Gold Rush particularly dramatic was the tremendous amount of gold that was found. Hundreds of millions of dollars of gold were taken out of the ground, first by individual miners working mostly by hand, and then by corporations using large machines. The chance of sudden wealth lured thousands of men and women to this remote part of the continent. In the course of a few months, Dawson changed from a mudflat to the largest town in Canada west of Winnipeg, with all sorts of modern facilities — including electricity and a telephone system.
The Klondike Gold Rush prompted many notable changes. From changing the course of development in the Yukon to influencing traditional First Nations societies and impacting the economic well-being of individuals and businesses, the Gold Rush was one of the most notable events in the history of Canada. Though such changes have been well-documented, the unanswered question is which changes had the most significant impact on conditions in the area?
In this MysteryQuest, you are invited to assess the impact of changes that occurred during the Klondike Gold Rush. Was gold and the subsequent increase in the wealth of individuals and businesses the most significant aspect of this event? Perhaps the rapid influx of people and the accompanying social changes had the greatest impact? Or maybe the most significant impacts affected the environment, caused by development and population growth?
Before ranking the impact of changes in three areas — economic, social, and environmental — you will need to learn more about the Gold Rush and its effects. After considering the criteria for identifying a significant impact, you will gather evidence from historical documents about the economic, social, or environmental changes associated with the Klondike Gold Rush. Finally, you will decide which of these is the first, second, and third most significant areas of change and justify your conclusions.
Learn more about the change brought on by the Gold Rush by reading two documents in the Secondary Sources section of Evidence in the Case:
Reflect upon your community: what event has caused the greatest change during the last year? Perhaps it was a new megastore, changes in the physical environment, or a serious storm. What was the community like before this event? What is it like after the event? How has this event affected various areas of community life:
On your own or with a partner, examine the following five documents:
As you read the documents, look for evidence of economic, social, and environmental changes associated with the Gold Rush. Use Comparing Conditions to record details about life in the Klondike before and after the Gold Rush and to indicate the major changes that occurred. Refer to the questions found in the left-hand column to guide your reading of the documents. For example, as you read the first newspaper article, ask yourself whether the character was rich or poor before and after the Gold Rush.
After examining the documents for details of life before and after the Gold Rush, you are now ready to consider the impact of these changes. The impact of an event is determined by various factors:
When you have explored each of the areas of change and have noted the major changes in each area, you are ready to rank order the impact to determine which type of change was the most significant. Use Ranking the Impact to rank order the changes. Consider all of the evidence you noted on Comparing Conditions and the three criteria for determining the significance of an impact. Which of the three areas of change should be ranked as the most significant? Remember that it may not be the number of changes that determines the impact. Instead, consider the breadth, depth, and duration of the impact of these changes.
The evaluation rubric Assessing the Evidence about Changes may be used to assess your ability to identify relevant evidence about conditions before and after the Gold Rush and to identify the major changes resulting from this event.
The evaluation rubric Assessing the Rankings may be used to assess your success in providing plausible explanations for the assigned ranking of the changes associated with the Klondike Gold Rush.
Consider the perspectives of others
The impact of events can vary according to the perspective of an individual or group. Would the following individuals agree on the most significant impact of the Klondike Gold Rush?
After considering the information in the Aftermath, re-rank the three areas of change from each of these five perspectives.
Examine other documents
Locate other documents in Archives that provide evidence about other changes resulting from the Klondike Gold Rush.
Explore other challenges
Apply your detective skills to other mysteries associated with the Klondike Gold Rush:
Activity Sheet: Comparing Conditions
Activity Sheet: Ranking the Impact