The Isaac Family
Culture and Religion
Books and Reference
Long ago people in Moosehide would always report seeing a Bushman. The village people would be scared of bushman because they believed they would steal their women and children. Uncle Charlie Isaac saw a bushman gathering leaves and making tea. He had a fire going and Uncle Charlie watched him.
"When we were little my mother Eliza Isaac use to take us up the hill above Moosehide Village to pick berries. This one time when I was little I was trailing behind putting berries in my can. I could hear this rustling sound in the bushes behind me when all of a sudden a big rock hit me in the forehead. I cried and ran to mother. Mother knew it was Googoo man trying to steal me so she cried out waving her stick "GOOGOO MAN, YOU LEAVE US ALONE!" I had a big goose bump on my forehead. After this I always stayed close to my mother when in the bush gathering berries. "
This story was told to her grandchildren when they were little by Angela Isaac.
In the 1960's Uncle Fred Isaac was about the only one still living at Moosehide Village in the cabin that he grew up in. As a child Fred heard many stories about this tall hairy creature who hides in the bush waiting to abduct a child or anyone travelling alone. Those who have been taken are never seen again. This one night the tied up dogs were going crazy barking. From his bed below the window Fred saw a Bushman looking in the window. He was so frightened that he couldn't move. The Bushman had long unkempted hair and hair all over his face. When the Bushman pulled away from the window Fred looked out and could see him running on its two hind legs towards the church. When daylight arrived Fred ran all the way over the hill to Dawson to tell the Police. The Police went down to Moosehide by boat and seen some damaged done in the church by the Bushman. Fred was so scared he never went back to Moosehide. He moved in to an abandoned cabin down north end in Dawson near where we lived. Story by Joy Isaac
Fred was the only one living at Moosehide. A white man with long stringy hair and bushy beard showed up at Moosehide. He had walked over the hill to Moosehide. He approached Fred and just moved right into Fred's cabin. The man was talking to himself and throwing stuff around which scared Fred. Fred asked him to leave but he would not leave. Fred went over the hill to Dawson and brought Russell back to Moosehide with him to see this crazy man. Russell said the man was talking to himself and throwing wood at them. Russell ran back to Dawson and told the Police. The Police along with Michelle Semple and another man took a cage and went by boat down river to Moosehide. When they arrived there they could see that the man was crazy. They put him in the cage and hauled him back to Dawson. The crazy man was kept in custody then shipped outside of Yukon.
Angela lived in Whitehorse in her senior years. She ended up at McCauley Lodge, a nursing home for old people. Angela was not happy there and would not settle down. She kept telling her adult children that she wanted to go back home to Dawson City. We did not take her seriously and ignored her request. One day I got this call from our band manager in Dawson saying that Angela was in there office requesting a house. I had no ideal she was there and how did she get there? When I talked to mother she said she walked up Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse and hitch hiked the 328 miles to Dawson. She said she slept by the side of the road one night and a bear licked her face. Angela was 73 years old. Through determination she made it back home. Angela passed away at age 75. Rest in peace Mother. Story by Joy Isaac.
Chief Isaac's drum was made for him by his brother Walter Ben. Drum design shape like a moose and burnt into the hide came from the Dawson slide. A story about how the slide was formed was told to Trica by Auntie Pat Lindgren. "Many years ago, before the white man came into this country, people of the Han tribe lived at the mouth of the Klondike, where the present city of Dawson is situated. Sometimes a member of the tribe would go missing, and it was said another Indian tribe, from the South, was stealing them. One day members of the Han tribe were at the very top of the hillside at the north end of Dawson, and the other tribe was at the foot of the hill. They were fighting and someone at the top cut down a tree and this started a slide. The rock slide buried and killed all the members of the tribe from the south.
Chief Isaac, heredity chief of the Han tribe, proudly displayed a drawing of the slide of Dawson on his drum because the symbol that shapes like a moose are signs of the land set there for his people of the Han tribe to live and to remember." Joy Isaac
Patricia Isaac was the first daughter born to Chief Isaac and wife Eliza. Therefore ever since she was a little girl she was known as Princess Pat. My mother Angela told me that when her sister Pat was a little girl she always had sore eyes. Chief Isaac was concerned for her so took her all the way by boat to Fort Selkirk to see a Medicine man. The Medicine man did his ritual dancing and cleansing of her eyes with natural plants. Several years later Princess Pat went totally blind. She was blind when her last two children Donald and Patsy were born. She never did see how they looked. Princess Pat was a loving mother to her four children, and to her niece and nephews. We loved her dearly and all took part in leading her around Dawson. I remember that the manager of the movie theatre would let her and whoever was leading her in free to the movies. We as children would all hang on to her so we would be let in free to the movies as we had no money (25 cents) to pay. Story by Joy Isaac
The Medicine man had much power and knowledge. He healed the sick, led in ceremonies and instructed his people where to hunt. He could even changed the weather through prayers and could see in to the future. Mother Angela told me that there were good medicine man and bad medicine man. She said grandpa Chief Isaac was a good medicine man. By Joy Isaac
Slobodin (1963a: 19-20) in the words of Charlie Isaac. The Shaman "might be walking in the mountains and he would see a certain flower. Blue flames coming from this flower. You and I couldn't see the blue flames, but he could. He would pick some and keep it, and use it later for power. He could use it to hurt or kill people,too. He would make something from the flower or whatever it was and shoot it, send it a long distance, and it would hit his enemy, say in the chest, and that man would start to get sore, and then infection, pus, flesh get rotten. Then he would probably die."
Klondike Kate (Kathleen Rockwell Matson)
My mother Angela told me that Klondike Kate was a good friend of grandmother Eliza Isaac. Klondike Kate was famous for being a dance hall girl during the gold rush in Dawson City. Klondike Kate's birth name is Kathleen Rockwell. She was born in Junction City, Kansas in 1876. Kate started dancing as a chorus girl in her teens and travelled around dancing and singing in bars. She saw the headlines in newspaper about the Klondike gold rush and made up her mind to go north. She arrived in Dawson City in 1900 during the Klondike gold rush and worked as an entertainer at the Palace Grand. Kate later married gold miner Johnny Matson of Sixty mile river. Kate developed a strong friendship with grandmother Eliza and continued this friendship after she left Dawson City by writing grandmother letters and sending parcels from her home in Bend, Oregon. Mother told me that Klondike Kate sent her own dresses and fur stols to grandma and mom Angela and Pat used to dress up in her clothes when they were young girls. Klondike Kate remained friends with grandmother until her death in 1957. Grandmother passed away in 1960.
I have in my possession an original letter dated February 21st, 1945 addressed to Mrs. Chief Isaac and signed Always your friend, Kate Rockwell Matson, 231 Franklin Avenue, Bend, Oregon. I have on display Klondike Kates fur stol at the Dawson City Museum. This is a part of my collection that I put on loan to the museum.
Story by Joy Isaac.
Klondike Kate's Letter
Pat remember her mother, Eliza, telling her how her family
to Dawson: "They drifted up from Eagle, Alaska with a few of their
people before 1998."
"My parents where living in the country when white people came." Pat said her people saw the gold but they didn't know what it was. Pat remembers being told of the gold rush on the Klondike. George Carmacks, a whiteman, his Indian wife and two Indian guides, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie stopped on the Klondike River. Carmack's wife went out during the night and saw stones shinning in the dark. "Thats how they found gold in Klondike. Found gold all over the rocks like stones."
Klondike originated from an Indian name Tchro-dik. The white men couldn't pronounce the Indian name and changed it to Klondike. Pat continued, "Some people come drifting down from the south then; for gold maybe. Soon people poured in and Klondike getting to be a big town." (Klondike City was on the southeast bank where the Yukon and Klondike Rivers joined and Dawson City was on the east bank of the two rivers.) "My Dad saw that they'd get civilized with that goldrush and was afraid his people would learn bad habits from the white people, drinking and trouble like that. He wanted his people to move away from the city so he talked to government and got them moved three miles down to Moosehide."
As Told By Princess Pat Isaac
"My father was chief at the time of the gold rush. He was the first chief there is. He came along from Alaska, drift up with a few of his people, must have been Eagle,Alaska was their main place.
He never see any white people in his life before then. But, he knew they were human beings, and he was friendly with them and welcomed them. And he told his people to be good to them too. So they are, and they good friends.
But my dad didn't want my people to get mixed up with them. Because he thought it would ruin their lives and spoil them, and they'd get drinking and things like that. And so he figured he'll move them down to Moosehide about three miles away from Dawson. He was afraid of alcohol because he saw that they were drinking and things like that, so he thought it wasn't good enough for his people. They live quite simple lives.
Moosehide was a little reserve, I would call it. They moved down there and started to build cabins to live in. The government give them land there so they figured it would be far enough away from Dawson. Where it was civilized. The government wanted them to live across Yukon river, but my father thought it was to handy to come across back and forth.
My people knew all about the Klondike, but they never knew nothing about gold. Lots of big nuggets along the creeks. But what do they know about gold? Nothing. So the White people come to the country and they found nuggets all around the place. Very strange, very strange to my father that all those people come for gold. Too much money. The way my dad used to say, they throw the money around, they threw the gold around. There's too much of it."
When I was a child at Moosehide, early spring we go to get wild rhubarb. Lots of roots good to eat them too. June, we get sap from birch tree. It's like syrup. Fall, we get berries-high bush, blueberries, cranberries. We used to go pick berries with Mother. It was like a big picnic. We make tea, make bannock. Lots of berries. Little way up, behind Moosehide, up hill, there's lots. Good many times we pick berries there.
People use to make garden at Moosehide. Better gardens even than Dawson. All kinds of vegetables. They even get prize at Discovery Day. Best vegetables in the Yukon! Everybody fish there too, with fishnets. Men go up river, around to hunt. Caribou, moose, came right by. We dry it, store it away. Everybody work.
In Moosehide, used to be that men trap. Women go to town to buy. No welfare business then. People are independent. Everybody is happy, friendly. Go to each cabin. People serve tea. Don't ever leave a house without something nice to eat.
Christmas and New Years we used to celebrate with big potlatches and dances. We have our own music down in Moosehide. My sister Angela and I play piano and the rest of the boys play drum, accordian, violin. Nice time! They don't pay us. Everybody don't ask for pay them days.
In spring, all women go to the creek. Make big fire and do washing. They do housecleaning then. It's a long way to pack water.
"After a few years we started to get civilized, started building cabins, a school, church at Moosehide. The mission is still standing there. I wish it was the same, there could be summer homes there. The community was well kept and many had gardens."
The Indians, before contact with "civilization", had their own methods of government or rules of conduct. Records showed Indians continued to do this in Moosehide. Moosehide Indian Council was founded March 1, 1921. The council was elected and records were kept of the meetings. "They made law, anyone come to Moosehide with bottle, they put in jail. Also had to tell where he got that booze. No such thing as drunks then. Even when they have dances, everybody laughing, happy. Thats when I was a kid growing up."
"Those days white people just gave people any names. All brothers sometimes have different names. My father had only one name, Isaac. It's a wonder the ministers didn't give him more than a first name. His brother named Johnathon Wood, he was a preacher at Moosehide. Another brother is Walter Ben, he was a preacher in Eagle, Alaska."
"Bishop Bompass baptized the Indians and married them. Some of them had two wives, they had to choose which one they liked and married one. My grandfather was one of them. Abraham Harper, my mother's side."
"Father went trapping and got influenza in the spring (April). He got very sick and they took him to hospital in Dawson. My father was well liked. They pulled his body (in a wagon) over the ice with two white horses. Many people went to the funeral service in Moosehide."
Pat went to work for a store keeper in Dawson and sent money home to her mother in Moosehide. Later she worked at Forty-Mile Roadhouse as a cook. There she met her husband, Anar Lindgren. She was married when she was twenty-one (1936). Her husband passed away about fifteen years later. Pat has four children, Dorothy, Barry, Donald and Patricia. "My sight was getting poor, but I kept right on in Dawson and stayed with my children. Later my kids went to school in Whitehorse."
"A few years later I moved to Whitehorse and have lived in McCauley Lodge for three years now."
Although Pat has been blind for many years, she still keeps herself busy knitting for her family and things to sell, and enjoys visiting with her family and friends.
Pat has a sister, Angela Lopaschuk, who lives in Dawson City. She had two brothers Fred and Charlie who have passed away.
Pat goes back to Dawson every summer to visit and "to visit good ol' "Moosehide" where she spent her childhood.
"I am Chief Isaac, my people from Han Nation, Whiteman call my tribe Moosehide Indians but that is name given by White man. They see slide behind Dawson on the hill, it look like stretched Moose Skin, so they say Moosehide Indians.
Long time ago, my grandfather, his grandfather, many grandfather ago, Indian story tell that ice in Yukon River never melt, river stay froze long time.
They tell that Evil Spirit get plenty mad, and make fire come from mountain, near Kluane Lake make darkness in sky so day same as night for long time. Snow fall from sky, but it's not snow, it don't melt.
It's rough time for Indian, Moose go away, Caribou leave, can't catch and dry Salmon because everything froze, lot of old people die.
Medicine Man make medicine all time for long time.
Don't hear Geese fly and make noise, no moon or sun so is very hard to tell how long this last.
When Medicine Man make very big medicine, sky start to clear, first they see sun, red ball, then moon come back.
This make people very happy they make big Potlatch. Medicine Man happy, he make Evil Spirit happy again. " (Source required)
By: Gerald Roger Isaac
My grandmother, Eliza Isaac told me this "long time ago story" when I was only five years old and growing up at Moosehide Village. 'Long time ago, one season, there was no sun and the ice in the river stay." Our people were very afraid that the Creator was punishing us for some wrongs. We relied on our shamens to say lots of good prayers. Anyways, one spring a giant shadow floated across the sky and turn the yellow sun into bright orange and the days became long night times. Finally, the sun was no more and the snow and the ice in the river stayed. It was hard time for our people because "luk cho" (salmon) had to swim under the ice in summertime and were hard to catch in fish trap. Even, "gah" (rabbit) never change his coat (colour). Moose and caribou get all mix up too. Bull moose get real friendly with each other, that time when the leaves supposed to fall off the trees. Bull moose never grunt and rattle their horns to challenge each other and fight over cow moose and that was because there was no springtime, no fall time, only winter time."
In 1905, lack of rain resulted in concerns in the Klondike
shortage of water for placer mining. As a result the Yukon Council
commissioned a US west coast rainmaker by the name of Charlie Hatfield
to bring equipment to the Klondike to make rain. Hatfield was to be
paid $10,000 for his services if successful. When no significant rain
fell, "Chief Isaac, of the local Han Indians, claimed that four of his
medicine men were preventing Hatfield from making rain. He also
offered, for only $5,000, to show Hatfield how rain should be made."
Hon. Ione Christensen,
Click here to see a copy.
Note: George Walters grandmother is Ellen Silas. His mother is Eva Silas.
George Walters left Dawson City a month after Charlie Isaac, joining the Canadian Forestry Corps in December 1940 for training at Valcartier, Quebec. Part of General Crears 1st Canadian Army, Georgies whole division went to Europe on the "Pasteur" a fast French single stacker, traveling in convoy from Halifax to Scotland, escorted by the biggest British battleships including the "Renown".
Posted to a forestry camp near Inverness, Scotland Georgie cut railroad ties and drove 'cat' alongside Australians, New Zealanders and Newfoundlanders, and kept an eye peeled for enemy paratroopers.
The Dawson boys were soon split up, he remembers, but curiously they met at odd times, even in the heat of battle, when the first words were, "how much smoke you got," and they shared the packs or cartons of Sweet Caps or Players sent from home.
In 1942-'43 when the Canadian Army were re-taking Norway, George Walters was hit by a shrapnel and was returned to Canada on the "Lady Nelson". A hospital ship, she traveled all lit up, with spotlights on the big Red Cross on her side and decks. Later in the war, even hospital ships were not safe from submarine attack.
Source: The Whitehorse Star, November 8, 1979.
Dawson Daily News: December 1922
Starting last Thursday night with a Christmas Eve celebration the little Indian village of Moosehide has been a busy place during the last few days with potlatches and good times. And the end is not yet at hand. All during this week the celebration will continue until next Monday night, when a final Christmas tree and potlatch will bring the holiday festivities at Moosehide to an end for another year.
Last Thursday night the Indians gathered together around a big tree in one of the houses where presents and good eats were freely disbursed to all in attendance. Chief Isaac was the guest of honour, while Charlie Mason was the Christmas boss and looked after all the arrangements. Chief Isaac states that everybody was happy and that the Indian boys and girls and men and women all had a "heap good" time . Lots to eat. Mountain sheep, candy, fruit, and plenty to smoke. Then there were songs and speeches. Jimus Francis was there as big as life and when called upon to contribute to the gaiety, Jimus stood up and with his ever present grin the young Peel River brave made a great speech. Chief Isaac also made a great spiel to his tribe in which he told his followers to have a good time but warned them not to drink any "firewater". The chief says that Christmas this year in the Yukon has been the best he has known for a long time. "I go to Pioneer dinner on Christmas afternoon." said the chief; "have fine dinner, lots to smoke, also tell Pioneers all about Christmas here, white man come. Well, me busy man these days. Must go now. Good bye now. Thanks for smoke. "
We all loved our grandmother Eliza Isaac dearly.
Eliza was born in the Klondike region of Yukon in the 1800's. Her father Abraham Harper was heredity chief and known as Chief Gah St'at' (meaning rabbit hat). Grandma had four brothers; Esau Harper, Henry Harper, Ben Harper and Kenneth Harper. Grandma had a hard life living in skin hide tents and moving wherever fish and game were in abundance.
Chief Isaac arrived from Eagle area of Alaska and married Grandma Eliza. Grandma had thirteen children, most were born in a tent or small cabin at Moosehide Village. Due to extreme hardship and illnesses, only four of her children survived to adulthood. They were Fred, Charlie, Pat and Angela. Besides caring for her children Grandma's responsibilities were to assemble and take down their portable dwellings, pack water from the creeks, gather wood, gather plants and berries, snare small animals, tan moose and caribou hides, make clothing out of the hides and dry fish and meat. Grandma was a good sewer and made all my grandfather's beaded ragalia by hand. She also made birch bark baskets and willow baskets.
Grandma was a life long member of Womens Auxillary of St. Barnapast Church in Moosehide and attended church faithfully. .
Some of my memories of grandma are the love and care she gave to us as children. She did not speak English and spoke to us in her native tongue (Han) and we understood her. In the winter we use to pull her around in a toboggan. Grandma would kneel down and hang on tight to the bow as we would run fast to get to our destination. When she got her old age pension cheque we'd take her to Strachens General store and she would sign a big shaky X behind the cheque and say "little tea, little sugar, little candy for kids." We also pulled grandma in a toboggan to dances. She loved going there to watch people dance.
By Auntie Pat Isaac, Interviewed by Julie Cruikshank, December, 1974
When I was a child at Moosehide, early spring we go to get wild rhubarb. Lots of roots good to eat then too. June, we get sap from birch tree. It's sweet like syrup. Fall, we get berries-high bush, blueberries, cranberries. We used to go pick berries with Mother. It was like a big picnic. We make tea, make bannock. Lots of berries. Little way up, behind Moosehide, up hill, there's lots. All trails grown over now, I guess. Good many times we pick berries there.
People used to make garden at Moosehide. Better gardens even than Dawson. All kinds of vegetables. They even get prize at Discovery Day. Best vegetables in the Yukon!
Everybody fish there too, with fishnets. Men go up river, around to hunt. Caribou, moose, came right by. We dry it, store it away. Everybody work. In Moosehide, used to be that men trap. Women go to Dawson to buy. People are independent. Everybody is happy, friendly. Go to each cabin. People serve tea. Don't ever leave a house without something nice to eat.
Christmas and New Years we used to celebrate with big potlatches and dances. We have our own music down in Moosehide. My sister Angela and I play piano and the rest of the boys play drum, accordian, violin, guitar. Nice time!
In spring, all women go to Moosehide Creek. Make big fire and do washing. They do housecleaning then. It's a long way to pack water so take all bedding and clothes to the creek. Spend all day there.
Spring Cleaning picture
at Moosehide Creek
Graveyard cleaning day was a big day too. They used to make little potlatch. All women bring their own food. Best food they can make. Us girls make cake, pie. Our mothers make bannock, dry fish. Then everybody clean graveyard.
At Moosehide each family had its own fishcamp, its own fish nets. They live together but fish alone. Above Swede Creek, upriver, Dad fishes and the boys help. Mom cuts up fish. I help her. We pick berries there too. When we grow up, we never know unhappiness. Then Dad die. So sad for us all.
Lots of families there when I'm kid - maybe two hundred families. So many die-some from sickness, German measles, flu. Not much hospital then, not much doctor, not much medicine. Flu is really bad during first World War.
Story by Joy Isaac
Chief Isaac was a good medicine man according to my mother Angela Isaac. Mom told me that they never got really poor growing up in Moosehide because of the medicine bag that Chief Isaac made and carried with him. The medicine he made was to bring good luck to his people, give him guidance, give him protection from enemies, jealousy and bad spirits. It was also used for guidance in hunting, healing illness and altering the weather. The medicine bag made of red cloth contained spiritual nature items gathered by Chief Isaac long before Angela was born. It was good medicine and used in dreams and always to protect his people from evil. Mom said there were other medicine men in Moosehide and there was one bad medicine man that moved there from Peel River. This bad medicine man would bother Chief Isaac in dreams and Chief Isaac would have to get his brother Walter Ben to sleep with to send the dream back to this bad medicine man. Walter Ben was a good medicine man who lived in Eagle, Alaska. That power isn't with everybody, just certain people. The Missionaries came along and told them to get rid of their medicine because it had devil power. Chief Isaac believed in God and only used his medicine for good luck. After Chief Isaac passed on to the Spirit World in April, 1932 his medicine bag remained in his trunk in his cabin at Moosehide. Mom said the medicine bag was not to be opened by anyone as it will loose its power. Years later when Mom and Grandmother Eliza moved three miles up river to Dawson, the trunk came along. In 1985 Chief Isaac's medicine bag was passed on to my oldest brother Gerald Isaac who can understand its meaning and have respect for its value. - By Joy Isaac
By Joy Isaac
Growing up in Moosehide and Dawson City I have had the delightful experience of seeing the display of northern lights flashing across the night skies many times. It was fascinating to see colours of red, blue, green, and pink lights weaving in and out of the dark skies. This aurora would also come surging towards us and scaring us when we were children, as we were told that it could grab our hair if we did not have our toques on. Later Grandmother explained to me that they believed these northern lights were dancing spirits of our ancestors who have passed on to the Spirit World.
By Joy Isaac
Fred was second mate on the river boats. Between 1896 and 1904 $100 million in gold was extracted from the Klondike. The Casca and Whitehorse were used to carry gold, goods and travellers before a highway was build to Dawson City. In 1952 the Casca and Whitehorse were laid to rest on the shore of the Yukon River at Whitehorse. Unfortunately both were distroyed by fire in 1974.