Excerpt: An exceptional and complex woman, Kate will prove herself neither angel nor demon. Her perspective—and indeed the perspective of all Native people—will be overlooked time and again in the plethora of books that will be written about the Klondike, popular accounts of the gold rush that emphasize the values and accomplishments of outsiders. But when pieced together decades after her death, her life’s story will demonstrate the many ways in which a singular quest for wealth played out for those who were there first, the indigenous people of Alaska and the Yukon. (Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold, by Deb Vanasse)
With the first headlines that screamed “Gold! Gold! Gold!” the rush to the Klondike quickly became the stuff of legend. It was the Wild West all over again, the cowboy hero recast as prospector, a rugged individual who, given the right mix of determination and luck, prevailed against the challenges of the wilderness. Missing from popular accounts that celebrate conquest and individual achievement are the perspectives of those who were there first—in particular, the stories of Native women like Kate Carmack, first called Shaaw Tláa, who played a pivotal role in the events that led to the Klondike stampede.
Given from a close-knit Yukon Indian band into marriage with prospector George Carmack, Kate met nearly every key figure in gold rush history. On an expedition up the Klondike River in 1896, it was her brother Skookum Jim, accompanied by Kate’s nephew and husband, who discovered the gold that triggered the rush. Four years later, Carmack abandoned his wife at a California ranch. Illiterate and thousands of miles from her home, Kate fought for her wealth, her family, and her reputation. The first popular rendering of the Klondike Gold Rush from the perspective of those who were there first, her biography gives voice to a survivor who, against all odds, ultimately reclaimed her true wealth.
“After dozens of books on the man-dominated, scoundrel-infested side of the Klondike Gold Rush, a fresh, new take on an epic historical event” ~ Kim Heacox, author of Jimmy Bluefeather
“An excellent example of the New Western History that seeks to recover previously marginalized voices of women, among other groups.” ~ Ross Coen, author of Fu-go: The Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack on America
“With this deeply researched and richly imagined biography, Deb Vanasse draws one of the Klondike’s most essential yet elusive characters from the wings and restores her to her rightful place.” ~ Frances Backhouse, author of Women of the Klondike
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon, between Astoria and Seaside. Wealth Woman is available in print from Snowy Owl Books, University of Alaska Press, and as an e-book from Running Fox Press. She’ll be speaking with blogger Angela Yatlin Gonzalez on Athabascan Women: Looking Back, Looking Forward at 2 pm on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Palmer Museum of History and Art.