Reading log #6 Megan Mckinlay
Barkerville in its day was the major town for gold mining. Although the town was isolated and had harsh living conditions, many people resided there. The large amount of people who lived in Barkerville created the opportunity for jobs for many people. Indigenous people lived around and worked in Barkerville during the gold rush. They worked in many ways for the community and were necessary for life in Barkerville. Contrary to old beliefs indigenous people were involved in the gold rush.
Barkerville was a major town during the gold rush. Isolated in the Cariboo Mountains; there was harsh weather, no farm land, and limited access to supplies. Charles Major wrote “They had nothing to eat for a week, and not one cent in money. This is gold mining for you!” (1). people didn’t come to Barkerville to thrive they came in the hopes of striking gold. There were many food shortages during 1866-1871 “In the spring of 1866 the paper observed that meat was completely unavailable” (2). In 1865 The Cariboo Wagon Road to Barkerville opened but did not prove to be very useful. The road spent most of its time under snow making Barkerville inaccessible.
The majority of people in Barkerville worked in the mining industry but there were many other jobs that were necessary for life. The services Indigenous people provided in the area were necessary for many aspects of life. When there were food shortages, First Nations hunting, and fishing was important to survive. “In 1871, beef prices hit sixty cents per pound” (3) for miners who couldn’t afford this steep price so indigenous hunting and fishing was a reasonable solution. “In October 1869, the newspaper observed: “those who have been in the fishing business … will do much better than if they had been mining.” (4) this is a direct cause of the accessibility being so poor. Again, the indigenous people were needed for life in Barkerville. “Aboriginal packers” were needed even after the completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road to get goods to and from Barkerville. “Only half a mile of snow to prevent wagons from coming to Barkerville, and yet the Government will not expend fifty dollars to have it cleared away. The express and mail have still to be packed across the mountain by Indian” (5). The indigenous people around Barkerville helped the town stay alive during times of famine and helped them stay in contact with the world outside of the Cariboo Mountains.
(1) Charles Major “news from British Columbia” the Daily Globe January 2, 1860, 238
(2) Ibid. 238
(3) Mica Jorgenson, “‘Into That Country to Work’: Aboriginal Economic Activities During the Barkerville Gold Rush,” BC Studies, 185 (Spring, 2015): 125
(4) Ibid. 125
(5) Ibid. 127