Skookum Jim was born, in the 1850's, into the Dakl'aweidi clan of Tagish, son of the Tagish Deisheetaan Chief Kaachgaawaa and Gus'duteen, his mother, who was from the Telegraph Creek area. His birth name was Keish, which means wolf. He came by the name 'Skookum', which means 'strong' in Chinook trade jargon, by carrying 156 pounds of bacon over the Chilkoot Pass for William Ogilvie, almost double the load most prospectors could carry.
Jim was well known for his strength. In the summer of 1892, from a boat he saw two bears fighting, and decided to hunt them. They ran up the mountain from him, but he shot and killed the black bear, then shot and wounded a big brown bear. He had a hand to hand fight with the wounded bear, ramming his rifle into the bear's throat and hitting him on the head with big stones. The bear went downhill and hid in some bushes, where Jim finally killed him with one shot.
When work ran out in Skagway, Jim went with his nephew, Dawson Charlie, and his brother-in-law, George Carmack, to prospect for gold. There is some confusion about who actually made the discovery. George Carmack said it was himself, but Dawson Charlie, Jim and each of their wives said it was Skookum Jim. As Jim told of the discovery to William Ogilvie, the three men were along what is now called Bonanza Creek when their supplies ran out and Jim had to hunt for moose. He called to George and Charlie and, while he was waiting for them, decided to look in the sand of the creek where he had gone for a drink. He found gold, more than he had ever seen before, and consequently set off the Klondike Gold Rush. Their first pay-off was about $150,000. The three men leased their claims and took a celebration voyage to Seattle. After selling his claim in 1904, Jim settled in Carcross.
Incidentally, Jim and Charlie also set off the Kluane Gold Rush when they made a discovery on a creek in the Kluane Lake area a few years later.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Who found the gold?