R.J. Simpson: Minister’s Culture and Heritage Circle Awards

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — June 2, 2021

Check against delivery

Mr. Speaker, the arts, culture, heritage and language play an integral part in creating a strong and sustainable territory. Living without access to live music, art shows, craft fairs, traditional events and seasonal festivals because of the pandemic has highlighted the beauty, tradition, celebration and community that arts, culture, heritage and language bring into our lives. This past year has also shown the resiliency and creativity of the many individuals and organizations who have found ways to continue to bring us together even when we are apart.

In celebration of these individuals and organizations, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to announce this year’s recipients of the Minister’s Culture and Heritage Circle Awards, all of whom are leaders in protecting, promoting and preserving heritage and culture.

  • In the Individual category, I would like to recognize Myrna Pokiak from Yellowknife. Myrna shares her formal and land-based education with her community. She promotes her culture through developing cultural awareness programs, and recently was asked to design a celebratory coin marking 150 years since the NWT joined Canada.
  • In the Youth category, Kaysea Fountain from Fort Resolution.  Kaysea has emerged as a cultural role model to her peers and a true champion of her ancestral language - Dëne Sųłıné Yatıé (Chipewyan);
  • In the Elders category, Rosalind Mercredi from Yellowknife. Rosalind has been a catalyst for many art events, including the 2020 Ice-olation Art Shows which allowed people to enjoy the arts despite the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • In the Group category, Collège Nordique Francophone from Yellowknife. Collège Nordique Francophone has demonstrated outstanding leadership with their efforts to build awareness among Northerners about the importance of protecting, preserving and celebrating the North’s unique cultures and ways of life.

As well, this year a new category was added to recognize the important work of promoting, preserving, and protecting Indigenous languages. This award is presented to any individual or group whose efforts increase the presence, visibility, use or scope of languages in communities. I am proud to award the first Indigenous Languages category award to Angelina Fabien from Fort Resolution for her work in reviving her ancestral language - Chipewyan.

Each year, Mr. Speaker, I also have the discretion as Minister to present a Minister’s Choice Award to an exemplary person or group who embodies the spirit and purpose of the Minister’s Culture and Heritage Circle. This year, I am honoured to present this award to Lawrence Nayally from Wrigley, Pedzéh Kı̨́.

Lawrence was raised by his grandparents, Dora and Boniface Nayally. Through the example set by his grandparents and his community, he developed a love of language, culture, identity and storytelling.

Lawrence has volunteered with youth, taught Dene games with the Aboriginal Sports Circle, created music with Juno Award winning artist Leela Gilday, and was featured in the powerful documentary Nahanni: River of Forgiveness.  He has done advocacy work through Idle No More and helped to create Dene Nahjo, a group working to advance social and environmental justice for Northern peoples and promote indigenous leadership.

Over the years, listeners of CKLB and CBC’s Trail’s End have been treated to Lawrence’s insights into his Dene life, heritage and language. He regularly offers pronunciation guides, including definitions of Dene Zhatie words that encourage the revitalization of language.

Early in his life, Lawrence set out to make a difference for the North and the people that call this place home. He has used his life and career to inspire others through his messages of hope and his vision for the future of the Dene. For that, I am honoured to recognize Lawrence with the Minister’s Choice Award.

This year, in light of the current public health measures, we are honouring all of our winners virtually through a celebratory video featuring all the award winners and further information on their important work. The video can be viewed on the Government of the Northwest Territories YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Mr. Speaker, I invite all Members of this House to join me in honouring this year’s Culture and Heritage Circle Award recipients and thanking them for their leadership and passion in promoting and celebrating our incredible Northern cultures, languages and heritage.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.