Open weave babiche bags were used often by First Nations, especially in the sub-arctic area of the Territory. First Nations people of the Yukon are identified as semi-nomadic people, which meant that they spent their year travelling to different camps in areas known for good hunting or fishing. Belongings had to be carried or towed to each new camp over the cycle of the year. The open weave of the bags were beneficial to travel because they expanded and shaped to fit the items that were being carried. Mostly, the open weave bags were used to carry hunting provisions, small game or fish. When the bags were not in use they could be collapsed and be stowed away.
Slaaw Tláa made this bag with the skills she acquired from her Tagish background. Her English name was Kate Carmack and was apart of the group that originally discovered gold under Bonanza Creek. It was her skills of living off the land that allowed the men to mine the gold over the course of the winter. As a woman married to a white man it was insisted that she embrace western culture but she always retained her traditional knowledge. She adopted some of the white men's things such as cooking pots and clothes but continued to make and use things of First Nations origin such as these bags. Original owner: Kate Carmack the wife of George Carmack, and a co-discoverer of gold on Bonanza Creek.
Kate Carmack's original name was Shaaw Tláa. Part of the Tagish people, Kate's marriage was arranged to a Tlingit man. She bore a daughter but both husband and child died. According to Tagish tradition, Kate was unattached and thus required to keep the marriage contract of her deceased sister. Kate married her sister's husband, George Carmack, a prospector from California, who was packing goods along the Chilkoot Pass with Kate's brother, Skookum Jim and her cousin, Dawson Charlie.
On August 17, 1896, George staked discovery claims and gave one each to Jim and Charlie. Kate did not stake a claim as she was a married woman. The claims yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars making all owners rich. Kate and George soon traveled to the United States. However, the foreign environment and constant media unnerved Kate and she began to drink. George abandoned Kate and sent her to live with his sister in California while he returned to Dawson. There George married Marguerite Laimee, a woman of ill repute who insisted that George never mention Kate's name and erased her from his diaries. When Kate found out he had remarried she tried to sue him for her share of the claim. Unfortunately, their marriage was never recorded by government officials and her case was dismissed regardless of the fact that Kate and George had been together for numerous years and they had a child together. Kate with her daughter Graphie returned to Carcross, penniless and heartbroken. George later sent for Graphie to come to Seattle, leaving Kate utterly alone. She died at the age of sixty-three during an influenza epidemic in 1920.
- Claire Rudolph Murchy and Jane G. Haigh. "Gold Rush Women" Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2001.
MacBride Museum of Yukon History, Whitehorse