|Print List Price:||$24.95|
Save $14.96 (60%)
Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold Kindle Edition
Kindle Feature Spotlight
|Length: 314 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
Matchbook Price: $2.99
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
- Due to its large file size, this book may take longer to download
Try Kindle Countdown Deals
Explore limited-time discounted eBooks. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who bought this item also bought
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The Tagish, like many first nations people, have a rich and storied oral traditions, so Kate was not literate in the written sense. For that reason, much of her life remains hazy, and most of what we do know stems from her affiliation with her common-law husband, George Carmack. An experienced trapper, Fisher, and clothing maker, Kate first met George through her brother, Skookum Jim Mason (Keish), who entered into a working relationship with George, serving prospectors in various ways. Kate had previously been married, but lost her husband and child to influenza; it likely solidified the indomitable and resilient spirit that Kate carried into her common-law marriage with Carmack, an American. The two worked in tandem to survive amongst the rough trade of the trappers and prospectors who were suddenly flooding the area. They lived a simple and labour-intensive life together, in a difficult region, and it is not difficult to presume the knowledge and experience Kate and her clan brought into Carmack’s life, went a long way in their survival eventual fortunes.
Three years after the birth of their child, Kate and George, along with her brother and some relatives, discovered gold while fishing for salmon at Rabbit Creek, which set into motion what would become the Yukon gold rush. There is some conjecture on just who actually deserved the title of discovery, with both Kate and her brother as reasonable contenders, but given the attitudes and social mores of the time, it was the American George who filed the claim, and since has been credited. As the Indian Rights Movement has gathered steam, historians are now beginning to question the accuracy of that claim, but the legalities surrounding land and property rights for minorities at the time would likely have made the choice for the group. This, more than the technicality of who first spotted the gold, was more likely the defining principle behind Carmack taking ownership over the claim.
Though initially able to reap the benefits of the Discovery claim, Kate’s husband eventually abandoned her and left their home (by then a large house in California); he married an American woman, settling in Oregon, and taking their shared wealth with him. Kate returned to her village and lived a happy, albeit difficult and by today's standards, short life, with her family.
Tagish cultural views on what constituted a happy, rich life, were inexorably tied up with their familial and clan ties, as well as the land the lived and worked on. This, combined with the era's attitudes toward women and minorities certainly played a large hand in Kate’s ability to move forward from what would today be seen as an ethically unforgivable, and a fiscally protracted legal battle over the wealth she lost. It is simpler and more romantic to presume her husband's abandonment was something Kate easily shook, thanks to her community ties and cultural ideals, but the reality is that we don't have any first hand sources that legitimize such opinions. Vanasse does an excellent job in utilizing secondary sources and exploring the Tagish cultural identity, but at times there is an unavoidable disconnect with Kate’s emotional persona. Such is the crux of writing about someone so historically remote, but if Vanesse's attempts to humanize and breathe life into Kate’s story propel further interest and have the potential to reassess what are potentially outdated platitudes, then I'd say she's done a spectacular job. I also commend her for writing about a very independent, strong, and standout woman ahead of her times, without muddling the waters by trying to tack modern sensibilities and expectations of feminism on her. Was Kate a feminist? You could argue she was; you could equally argue she was simply a woman whose own culture placed different values and ideals on its women, which in many ways, mirror the independence American women did not have. The book is not really about those things, and I respect the author's decision to leave the debate firmly in the hands of each reader. She also avoids the trap of demonizing George Carmack for his abandonment and subsequent bigamy- his own actions are more than enough to fill the frame for the reader.
While Vanasse herself is not Tagish, and this is not an academic biography per say, it is highly readabLe and well-researched, and provides a fresh perspective on just who the real movers and shakers were in the Yukon's gold rush. It makes an excellent companion book for anyone interested in the history of the Gold Rush, the Yukon's first nation's people, or history in general. I had planned to give it 3.5 stars, but I'll bump it up to 4 since Vanesse plucked Kate from obscurity, and is one of the first to write about her as more than a secondary character. Well done.
Yet, little has been penned of the women who made up the gold rush era.
And even less of a Tagish Indian named Shaaw Tlàa, later known as Kate Carmack, whose 1896 discovery of gold in Bonanza Creek sparked the frenzy that became the gold rush.
How refreshing, then, to discover former Alaska author Deb Vanasse’s “Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold,” a blend of narrative nonfiction and biography that offers the first in-depth look inside Kate Carmack’s life.
The book is a formidable feat of research (the endnotes, for instance, take up a good chunk of the last section) that weaves letters, photographs, interviews and newspaper articles into a vague but coherent outline of Kate Carmack’s life.
This, as Vanasse mentions in the Preface, was far from easy. Since Kate could neither read nor write, she left very little of herself behind.
“I’m also a novelist, and I must admit to a temptation to fictionalize Kate’s story,” Vanasse says in the Preface. “It would certainly have been easier than sifting through sands for facts that others had overlooked.”
While Vanasse’s commitment to stay within the bounds of historical fact holds strong, she thankfully sprinkles in small details that add an intriguing flavor, such as when she describes a photograph of Kate leaving Dawson City:
“Though in one hand she clutches a white handkerchief—has she been crying?—her lips turn in a slight smile.”
The book opens in 1898, when the Roanoke, a ship loaded with gold, pulls in the Seattle dock as a crowd of by-standers presses forward, eager to hear who has struck it big and who has returned broken and empty-handed. Kate is onboard, and a black and white photograph included in the book shows her standing on deck with husband George Carmack (also known as “Lying George”), and their daughter, Graphie.
Looking at this photograph it’s impossible not to wonder if Kate, said to be one of the richest indigenous women, has any idea of how her world is about to crash down.
**subhead**Complexities of gold
Before Kate married Carmack, back when she was still Shaaw Tlàa, she lived with her Tlingit husband, Kult’us, along the eastern arm of Chilkat Inlet. Vanasse weaves myth with history to paint a picture of Shaaw Tlàa’s early Tagish life.
“As waterfalls splashed melted snow from the mountains, the “Kahaakw.ish” moon brought an end to the long northern winter. Sandpipers scurried over the tide-exposed shores of the northern Lynn Canal,” she writes.
After Kate’s husband and daughter die, most likely from disease brought to their village by visiting Europeans, Kate marries Carmack. Soon after, Wealth Woman makes her appearance.
In Tagish folklore, the Wealth Woman floats through the forests clutching a baby while bestowing riches in exchange for a complicated series of tasks. When Kate’s brother, Jim, finds himself visited by the Wealth Woman as he travels through a pass called Shash Zeititi, or Grizzly Bear Throat, he’s told that everything will turn golden. This sets the stage for the first significant gold find, and the events that follow are so confusing and complex that it’s impossible to know who first spotted the gold: Kate? George? Jim? Whatever the case, George finagles the claim in his name and reaps the majority of the wealth.
Parts of “Wealth Woman” are difficult to read. History can be ugly, and Vanasse doesn’t soften the blow. She chronicles instances of anti-Indian actions and sentiments, along with slanted (and badly written) newspaper stories. Other sections are mired down with too many facts, too many details. Instead of moving Kate’s story forward, Vanasse includes long and intertwining descriptions of Anglo-Indian relations and agreements, military history and background details of people with no close ties to Kate. As a result, Kate’s story often stalls. It becomes very, very quiet.
Of course, Vanasse, had a limited amount of information to work with. Yet it often feels that by sticking to straight facts, Vanasse forsakes a valuable connection. Kate’s story is so vague that readers never get a chance to know her, to root for her, to feel her.
And this, then, is the irony of “Wealth Woman.” It’s a book about Kate Carmack’s life yet, since there’s not enough known or recorded about her, it veers towards other things: A factual and fascinating account of the Klondike Gold Rush era and, unfortunately, the familiar story of a man who marries one woman, finds someone else, ditches the first and does everything in his power to make sure she’s left with nothing.
After George leaves Kate and their daughter stranded in California (he marries a former prostitute while still married to Kate), Kate eventually finds her way back to her Tagish roots and settles in Carcross, where she lives in a small cabin and gets by however she can. She dies of the Spanish influenza in 1920. She dies with no material wealth except for a pair of sealskin gloves and a gold watch. Yet, according to the Wealth Woman legend, she died with riches, in her homeland, amidst the smells and beauty of a familiar and much-loved landscape.
As Vanasse writes at the end: “She was a good woman, the Tagish people say of her still—a good woman, who came from good people.”
It is only within the last few years that indigenous woman were portrayed in true light - for so many generations they were given no credit for intelligence, morals, or ambition. Rather they were judged against the norm for European women with no insight into their way of life. Thank you, Ms. Vanasse, for bringing us Kate 'Shaaw Tlaa' Carmack of the Klondike in all of her varied richness. She was a remarkable woman who carried her heritage firmly into the twentieth century despite all the setbacks weighed against her. Because of her - and your research to bring her story to the light, we have a much more complete picture of life and times in Alaska before, during and after Klondike gold.