“The Index to a Man’s Principles”: Dawson and the Canadian Yukon Patriotic Fund, 1914–1920
Keywords:Yukon, Dawson, First World War, Patriotic Fund, Volunteerism, Patriotism, Veterans, Re-establishment
AbstractThe Northern Review 44 (2017): 51–78
The prevailing image of Dawson (and of the Yukon writ large) during the First World War is that of a community singularly united behind the war effort, with previous class and racial divisions bridged by the call of Empire and of nation. Using the records of the Canadian Yukon Patriotic Fund and the reports of the Dawson Daily News, this article complicates the glowing contemporary and historical assessments of the Yukon’s war effort by revealing the social divisions, frustrations, and disillusionment that also mark the community’s complex First World War experience. The war exacerbated racial and social fault lines, particularly the divide between the community and the large transient non-British workforce who found themselves under attack in Dawson’s discourse about belonging and patriotism. These dynamics do not discredit the dominant narrative of a loyal, patriotic, and generous Dawson-at-war, but they do challenge the idea that Dawson never wavered in its unity, sense of shared purpose, and enthusiasm for the war effort. A sense of disillusionment gripped the community as the war went on, and the situation only worsened when veterans returned home to find no jobs and no appropriate re-establishment plan in place. By 1919, Dawson’s pride in its patriotic contributions had been tempered by a sense of regret that it had mobilized so much of its resources to support the war effort—and received increasingly little in return. This article is part of a special collection of papers originally presented at a conference on “The North and the First World War,” held May 2016 in Whitehorse, Yukon.
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