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Skookum Jim Mason.png
James Mason

1859 or 1860
near Bennett Lake (present-day British Columbia and Yukon border)
DiedJuly 11, 1916
ResidenceCarcross, Yukon, Canada
Other namesSkookum Jim Mason; James Mason
OccupationPacker over the Chilkoot Pass carrying supplies for miners
Known forCredited 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 near Bennett Lake[2] on what is now the British Columbia and 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 River. 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. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  4. ^ "Sample Interpretive Tour Program: Skookum Jim Tour". Retrieved 2008-06-05.

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