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Born James Mason
1859 or 1860
close to Bennett Lake (on the present-day British Columbia/Yukon border)
Died July 11, 1916
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Residence Carcross, Yukon, Canada
Nationality Tahltan
Other names Skookum Jim Mason; James Mason
Occupation Packer over the Chilkoot Pass carrying supplies for miners
Known for Credited with making the gold discovery at Discovery Claim that led to the Klondike Gold Rush

Keish (1859 or 1860[1] – July 11, 1916), legally James Mason,[1] best known by his nickname Skookum Jim Mason, was a member of the Tagish First Nation in what became the Yukon Territory of Canada. He was born close to Bennett Lake[2] on what is now the British Columbia/Yukon border, to a Tahltan woman (which under the conventions of a matrilineal society made him Tahltan.) He lived in Caribou Crossing, now Carcross, Yukon, Canada.[3]

In the mid-1880s, he worked as a packer over the Chilkoot Pass carrying supplies for miners, where he earned his Skookum nickname because of his extraordinary strength. Skookum means "strong", "big" and "reliable" in the Chinook Jargon and regional English as used in the Pacific Northwest.

He assisted William Ogilvie in his explorations of the upper Yukon. He also showed members of the expedition the way over the White Pass. Keish is today co-credited with making the gold discovery at Discovery Claim that led to the Klondike Gold Rush, although it was originally attributed solely to George Carmack, his brother-in-law. It is also possible that the discovery was made by Keish's sister Shaaw Tláa (Kate Carmack).

Carmack described Skookum Jim as:

“straight as a gun barrel, powerfully built with strong sloping shoulders, tapering…downwards to the waist, like a keystone. He was known as the best hunter and trapper on the river, in fact he was a super-specimen of the northern Indian” (Skookum Jim Oral History Project- Archives)[4]

He died in Whitehorse, Yukon in 1916, survived by a daughter, Daisy Mason, sister, Kate Carmack, and cousin, Tagish John.[3]


  1. ^ a b 1901 Census of Canada, District 206, Subdistrict f-93 (Cariboo Crossing, Yukon), at page 2, line 2, at, (Dec. 28, 2013).
  2. ^ KEISH - Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  3. ^ a b "SKOOKUM JIM MASON'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT". Yukon Prospectors' Association. 1916-09-22. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  4. ^ "Sample Interpretive Tour Program: Skookum Jim Tour". Retrieved 2008-06-05. 

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