The opposite of a cheechako, a sourdough is an old hand, an experienced person, or someone who has been in the area a while. The term comes from the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1850s when would-be miners rushed up to Alaska/the Yukon convinced they could strike it rich. Preparing for months spent on their claims, they had to have everything they were going to need, including sourdough starter if they wanted any bread products. (One school site also notes that "A Sourdough is an old time Alaskan who people say has soured on Alaska with no dough to get out," but most of the sites I saw seemed to consider "sourdough" a badge of pride.

Exactly what makes you a sourdough is defined differently in different places; surviving a winter seems to be the minimum required.

  • "If you're there to see the river freeze over and still around when it thaws in the spring then you've made the grade." --
  • "The old time definition of a Sourdough was: one who had peed in the Yukon, slept with a squaw, and killed a bear. In these more politically correct times, the definition is: one who has spent at least a year in Alaska." --

Other sources: