Kate Carmack

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Shaaw Tláa, Kate Carmack
Shaaw Tláa.jpg
Shaaw Tláa (Kate Carmack)
Born Shaaw Tláa
c. 1862
close to Bennett Lake
Died 29 March 1920
Carcross, Yukon
Cause of death Influenza epidemic of 1918-1920
Residence Carcross, Yukon
Other names Kate Carmack
Occupation seamstress
Known for With her husband and brother, credited with making the gold discovery at Discovery Claim that led to the Klondike Gold Rush
Spouse(s) Kult’ús
George Carmack
Children Daughter1
Daughter2, Graphie Grace Carmack
Parent(s) Father, Kaachgaawáa
Mother, Gus’dutéen
Relatives Brother, Keish (Skookum Jim Mason)
Nephew, Dawson Charlie (K̲áa Goox̱)

Shaaw Tláa, also known as Kate Carmack (c. 1857 – 29 March 1920), was a Tagish First Nation woman born near Bennett Lake. She lived with her parents, and seven sisters and brothers, near Carcross, Yukon. Her father, Kaachgaawáa, was the head of the Tlingit crow clan, while her mother, Gus’dutéen, was a member of the Tagish wolf clan.[1] Her name in Tlingit means "gumboot mother".

Early years[edit]

As a young woman, she married her first cousin, Kult’ús. In the early 1880s, her husband and their infant daughter died of influenza in Alaska, at which time Shaaw Tláa returned to her village. It was here, in 1887, that Shaaw Tláa's brother, Keish (Skookum Jim Mason), and nephew, Dawson Charlie (K̲áa Goox̱) started a packing, hunting, and prospecting partnership with George Washington Carmack, an American. She became Carmack's common-law wife within the year. She took the name Kate Carmack.[1]

Beginning in 1889, and for the next six years, the couple lived in the Forty Mile region. Carmack prospected, trapped, and traded, while Shaaw Tláa made winter clothing that she sold to miners. They had one daughter, Graphie Grace Carmack (born 1893, Fort Selkirk).[1]

Gold discovery[edit]

Kate and her husband were fishing for salmon at the mouth of the Klondike River in August 1896, when a party led by her brother, including two nephews, came looking for her. The party then discovered gold in Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza Creek), setting in motion the Klondike Gold Rush.[1] Some accounts claim that Kate made the actual discovery.

After becoming wealthy, the Carmacks moved to Hollister, California, to live with Carmack's sister, Rose Watson (later Rose Curtis). Subsequently, Carmack left California, Kate, Graphie, and his former partners. Kate and Graphie stayed with Rose.[2]

Carmack married Marguerite Laimee in 1900, in Olympia, Washington.[2] Kate, unable to prove she was Carmack's lawful wife, entitled to alimony, returned to Carcross in July.

Later years[edit]

Keish built her a cabin near his, and daughter, Graphie attended mission and residential schools in Carcross and Whitehorse that were run by Bishop William Carpenter Bompas, before Graphie moved to Seattle, Washington.[1]

She died of influenza during the Worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918-1920 in Carcross.


  1. ^ a b c d e SHAAW TLÁA
  2. ^ a b Guide

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