The legendary Yukoner received a posthumous tribute that is out of this world.
Skookum Jim, also known as Jim Mason, discovered gold at Bonanza Creek in 1897, leading to the Klondike gold rush. When he died in 1916, he put his fortune into a trust fund to help improve the lives of the indigenous people of the Yukon.
Last week, on the recommendation of the Yukon Astronomical Society, an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter was named after him.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Zina McClain, Skookum Jim Mason’s older niece who didn’t know her ancestor’s name had been introduced.
“Anything that preserves the name Skookum Jim Mason in Yukon’s public history is important to the rest of his nephews, nephews, and family.”
Skookum Jim Mason was a Tagish of the Duck La Wede clan. The trust he created in his will still exists today, according to the Whitehorse Friendship Center that bears his name. The interest generated from the fund is used to recognize indigenous peoples who have helped their community.
Maria Benoit, Ha Cha Do Hin, or President of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and former CEO of the Skookum Jim Friendship Center, was very happy to hear the news. Her great-grandfather was Skookum’s nephew Jim Mason.
“Coming from a first nation,” she said, “it’s a history in the making.”
Skookum asteroid Jim
Skookum Jim is a major asteroid in the belt. It orbits with other asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
“It takes just over five years to complete a complete orbit around the sun,” explained Christa van Larhoeven, president of the Yukon Astronomical Society. “Its orbit is not perfectly circular. It is not what we call eccentric. It is not very non-circular, but only slightly. It is tilted relative to the Earth’s orbit by about 15 degrees.”
As far as van Larhoeven is known, it is the second asteroid whose name is associated with the Yukon.
“The only other asteroid I can find with a Yukon connection is Klondike,” she said, adding that it was named after two brothers who came to the Klondike gold rush, made a fortune and donated money to a university in Finland that built a library.
Van Larhoeven said in astonishment about fate that it was the university where the Skookum Jim asteroid was first discovered.
However, if you’re hoping to see the asteroid Skookum Jim, van Larhoeven said you’ll need a telescope.
“Something a little big,” she said, “large enough that it wouldn’t be easy to take it out in your backyard.”
McLean said she hopes that one day science will be able to determine the components of an asteroid.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if it was loaded with gold?” She laughed.
The naming began with an email from the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society to the Yukon Astronomical Society that said they had an opportunity to submit some names to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is responsible for naming objects in space.
The way the email was phrased, van Larhoeven said, seemed as if the IAU wanted to honor someone who had served society well.
“We really felt that if we were going to honor Yukoner, we wanted to honor Skookum Jim,” she said.
“We really felt that his presence in Yukon’s history loomed large enough that if we were to get an asteroid named Yukoner, it really should be him.”
9:30research! high in the sky! It’s Skookum Jim’s asteroid
The proposal was put forward in 2018.
The Yukon Astronomical Society was notified of this honor last week, on April 11.
“I am quite surprised that the International Astronomical Union took our proposal,” said van Larhoeven.
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