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Special edition loonie commemorates the gold rush and Yukon First Nation history

“We wanted to make people want to find out more about what it represents.”
The special loonie commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Courtesy/Royal Canadian Mint)

Keep an eye on your pocket change – a Klondike scene will be replacing the loon on three million coins going into circulation this week.

The Royal Canadian Mint has released a special edition loonie that commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush and the history of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Carcross/Tagish First Nations.

“We’ve been making commemorative circulation coins for years and they’re a very convenient vehicle for the government to put out these stories that are important for Canadians to either remember or to learn,” said public affairs manager Alex Reeves.

Reeves noted that the stories Canadians tell about the period of gold discovery starting in 1896 is often a selective one.

This time, the Mint partnered with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Carcross/Tagish First Nations in order to bring the coin to life.

“When we talked to those communities, we found out pretty quickly that their view and their experiences of the Klondike Gold Rush was not as positive as conventional history has told Canadians for generations,” he said.

The result is an etched face that includes the creek, hills, the midnight sun and Keish (Skookum Jim Mason), K̲ áa Goox̱ (Dawson Charlie), Shaaw Tláa (Kate Carmack) and her husband, George Carmack.

A Royal Canadian Mint staff member inspects a special Klondike Gold Rush loonie at the manufacturing facility in Winnipeg. (Courtesy/Royal Canadian Mint)

“Skookum Jim was a very prominent member of our First Nation and family member to many citizens here. We’re very proud of his contributions and those of many of our citizens during that period. We look at them as the first Carcross/Tagish First Nation entrepreneurs,” said Maria Benoit, Deputy Chief of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, in a statement.

Outside of recognizing Skookum Jim, the coin also includes — marked in special red ink — the Moosehide Gathering place, where the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation relocated after the influx of prospectors.

Consultations with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in made sure to commemorate this other story of the gold rush that included colonization and eventually residential schools.

“The Klondike Gold Rush was a world-changing event, and with it came more than a century of challenges for our First Nation. With the vision and foresight of our past leader, Chief Isaac, we were able to survive the decades of upheaval. He assured that we remained a resilient people,” said Roberta Joseph, Chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, in a statement.

Reeves said the Mint regularly designs special coins to commemorate important heritage themes and events. As they criss-cross the country, he hopes they inspire interest in history. The Klondike coin will be the second coloured loonie released.

“If you see colour on a loonie, I would bet that you’re going to notice it and take a closer look at what’s on there. So it’s a powerful tool that way,” he said. “The moosehide slide is really a symbol of the story of the community’s displacement, but also their resourcefulness and their resilience under the leadership of Chief Isaac. We wanted to make people want to find out more about what it represents.”

The coin was designed by Vancouver artist Jori van der Linde and manufactured in Winnipeg.

There will be three million Klondike loonies in circulation – including two million coloured versions with a red moosehide and one million uncoloured versions.

Contact Haley Ritchie at