Story & photos
by Dan Davidson
Discovery Day, August 16, 1896, has different meanings for different people, depending on how it may have affected them. This was reflected in the speeches by community leaders that followed the parade on August 17 this year, just one day past the actual commemorative date.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Deputy Chief Clara Van Bibber presented the First Nation’s viewpoint.
“It’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens. As you might appreciate, our First Nation is sometimes conflicted about celebrating the discovery of gold in our region. The initial find at Bonanza Creek kicked off an influx of newcomers to our home and changed our traditional way of life forever.
“But over time we’ve found a place in our hearts to take in the mining world. With many of our citizens employed in the industry and our government forming partnerships with responsible gold mining operations, we are there today.
“But more importantly, our First Nation conquered the challenges posed by the Gold Rush and flourished in spite of that event.
“Frankly thriving in the face of adverse conditions is what our nation has done for millennium.
“Our story, as a First Nation, goes back many years, but for the past century it has been interwoven with the Gold Rush story. For good or ill it has helped shape who we are today. The World Heritage Site project we are currently undertaking with several community partners will explore that story and define for us all why that story is important and how it’s worth sharing with the world.”
Mayor Wayne Potoroka contained more personal reflections.
“I’ve often thought Discovery Day should be a national holiday. The Klondike Gold Rush changed the course of human history, seized the world’s imagination and reconfigured the western hemisphere’s economy. And it all began with the accidental discovery of gold up Bonanza Creek; at a site we can still visit.
“But over time, our celebration has become less about the discovery of gold and more about the people that event helped gather in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the rich, one-of-a-kind Klondike culture that’s taken root here.
“Whether you’re into visual arts, live music, sharing your garden’s harvest, or flinging mud with your truck, there’s something for everyone during the Discovery Day weekend, and it’s no coincidence that’s also something you can say about our town.
“Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, presenters and visitors to town that helped make this a fantastic Discovery Day weekend.”
The parade began a few minutes after noon and wound its way to Victory Garden and the Museum, where the speeches were made, a hotdog lunch was served, yard and parade awards were presented and kids games were held.
Yard awards went to Margaret Saunders (Most Notable Transformation), Maria Ledergerber (Best Residential), Whitehorse Cabins (Best Business), and the Commissioner’s Residence (Best Community Green Space).
Parade awards were in several categories:
Non-Profits – first place ($250): Chicken Dinner; second place ($150): FOOP (Female Order of Producers); third place ($100): Horticultural float – the Gammies.
Business Awards – first place: Beach Day – Gammie Trucking; second place: Juliette’s Manor; third place: Grab a Cab.
Government Awards – first place: Visitor Information Centre; second place: Dawson City Museum; third place: Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.
Other events, related to the Riverside Arts Festival, drew people to other areas of town over the next 48 hours.
The weather for the weekend was variable. Friday was fine. On Saturday and rained and drizzled, but not enough to prevent major daytime events from happening. On Sunday it was fine and sunny, as was the Monday holiday.