A made-in-Whitehorse podcast is breathing new life into old tales.
From father-daughter team Keith and Pascale Halliday comes the straightforwardly named Klondike Gold Rush History Podcast, which follows familiar storylines and characters but also aims to dive into narratives that have been historically overlooked or ignored. Keith is also a columnist for the Yukon News.
The Hallidays are big fans of historical-narrative-style podcasts and have dived into ones about ancient Rome and the French Revolution. However, while there are a plethora of books, poems and films about the Klondike gold rush, Keith said they couldn’t find a podcast dedicated to telling the stories of the years that changed the Yukon forever.
“We thought, you know, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Yukon-based podcast about the Klondike gold rush that was fun to listen to and sort of told the story for the general listener from beginning to end?’” he says.
The podcast premiered in June and nine episodes out of a planned 20 to 25 are currently available for listening. Each episode, recorded in Keith’s “basement podcast lair,” is about 20 minutes long; together, the series will take abut the same time to listen to as it takes to drive from Dyea to Dawson City, two key points in the mad stampede that began in 1896.
While some of the names, dates, places and outcomes will be familiar to Yukoners and Alaskans, Pascale said that the podcast still has a lot to offer for both locals and outsiders alike.
“As extensively as the gold rush has been covered, there’s still a lot of stories that haven’t been told, especially from the First Nations’ perspective or women’s perspective — I think that there’s still a lot to tell,” she says.
One thing the podcast tackles and criticizes early on is the colonial, Euro-centric lens that Klondike gold rush is often seen through; both Pascale and Keith say they thought taking a broader, more diverse and nuanced view of the events was important.
“To really understand the gold rush you have to understand that it’s this sort of cataclysmic event that brings together the full forces of sort of North American or global capitalism into the Yukon at a time when the First Nations people were, you know, living here in a traditional way and that impact and contact is a key part of the gold rush story,” Keith says.
The gold rush, for the Hallidays, is also personal — they’re descendents of some of the people who scrambled along the Chilkoot trail in the last years of the 1800s. Research for the podcast actually began with looking at his grandparents’ collection of old northern books and trying to find as many original sources as possible.
“I sort of grew up listening to stories about the gold rush, you know, my grandparents, aunts and uncles and so on. I think it’s really nice for me and Pascale to pay a bit of hommage to them and their experiences,” Keith said.
“And I think they would maybe laugh at us today because we’re so amazed at the stuff that they did where as to them, it was a little bit of regular life… In the podcast we’re marvelling that they did the Chilkoot without GORE-TEX or fancy lightweight stoves, I think that would give them a chuckle.”
Feedback has been positive, with people listening in from as far away as Toronto. Listeners have been following the journeys of people like journalist Tappan Adney (“He’s basically going to a place that he couldn’t even find on a map before he left,” Keith summarizes) so far; in the second half of the podcast, they can also expect “explainer” episodes of how things like, say, gold panning or dredges work.
“I’ve had a few people from the Yukon email me to say, like, ‘I listened to the podcast and I found out so much that I didn’t know,’ and they thought that they knew the history but they didn’t actually know it all,” Pascale says.
“So I think for locals, it does give you a connection to the Yukon in a different way, like you’re walking around and you see the street names and you recognize those names and who those people were … It just sort of redefines your connection to your home.”
Episodes of the Klondike Gold Rush History Podcast are available online at klondikegoldrush.org, as well as on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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