Native Copper Specimen

Native Copper Specimen

Native copper hand sample, flat copper nugget

Brownish, indigio and torquoise in colour. Symbol Cu.

Copper nuggets are found readily in the interior of the Yukon especially along the White River. This material was greatly prized as it was easily shaped into arrowheads, awls and other tools. By the late 1800's the White River Copper Chief controlled the trade in this metal. It was a great source of wealth until iron tools became available through the fur trade. The Coastal Tlingit used copper for spear blades, arrows, knives and personal ornaments. Stronger then bone, it was fashioned mainly into tools and weapons.

Heating and hammering the copper gives it strength and because the copper was 98% pure, it could be annealed with the heat of a campfire. Copper ore, on the other hand, must be smelted out of the rock at temperatures starting around 1085 degrees Celsius. The Southern Tutchone had easiest access to copper. Athapaskan First Nations that lived in and around the so-called copper belt would dig out the flat nuggets from the river bed for trade and personal use. Copper in five to six pound nuggets would be carried along trade routes with winter furs for trade with the Tlingit. They would travel many kilometers to meet the Inland Tlingit at pre-arranged trading spots. Trade routes were so complex and solid it is said that the Copper River was the principle source of supply for the coast as far down as Vancouver Island.


Kluane Museum of History, Burwash Landing

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