I recently got a new book called “Sailor on Snowshoes – Tracking Jack London’s Northern Trail” by Dick North. Mr. North has spent decades gathering every detail of London’s trip to Dyea and Dawson, but one incident jumped out at me that I had never heard before.
On page 81, he states that when the Nantucks spoke of “previous wrongs, it is very possible that it was the murder of the two maternal uncles of Johnny Johns they had in mind. ” Johnny Johns was the nephew of Skookum Jim Mason and Tagish Charlie. In 1982 Johnny Johns insisted that “very early in the gold rush era transgressions of the law occurred that were never reported because there were simply no law enforcement officers around. He cited the fate of his mother’s two brothers in 1896. When several white men who had set up camp on the beach at the outlet of Lake Lindeman caught an Atlin native stealing their liquor supply, they promptly shot the thief, killing him instantly. Seeing the only witnesses were two natives (who happened to be John’s mother’s brothers), they killed them as well. Word of the murders leaked out to the village people when the Native girlfriend of one of the whites told John’s mother about it.”
So, I looked through “Life Lived as a Story” by Julie Cruikshank and found the genealogy chart for Angela Sidney’s family. Johnny Johns’ mother was La.oos Tiaa, kaax’anshi or Maria Johns, married to Tagish John. Maria had two brothers who were named Tl’uku and Kult’us but there is no information on them.
Since the 1896 murder was not investigated and the murderers’ names were not recorded it would seem that in this case, they got away with murder. Then, two years later, on May 10, 1898 the Nantuck brothers take retribution for past occurrences, which presumably had to do with the white powder incident – or maybe something else.
North says that Johnny Johns’ family may have instead been referring to the 1896 murders.
An interesting thought might be that the two miners who murdered the brothers could possibly be the same two miners that the Nantucks shot in 1898.
The Nantuck brothers’ testimony seems confused, as written up in “Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon” by John McLaren and Hamar Foster which is viewable online. It was generally accepted that the Canadian government was trying to understand the issues involved in cases involving First Nations people and that they were beginning to rethink the previous frontier justice actions.
This week the remains of Dawson and Jim Nantuck were re-interred after they were identified in Dawson after accidentally being dug up during a construction project last summer. The Dawson cemetery is seen above.