History and Meaning
Steeped in symbolism and ceremony, the use of the mace dates back centuries to the parliaments of the British Commonwealth. Originally designed to be a weapon to protect kings and queens, over time the mace has become a symbol of respect for our governing institutions.
Without the mace, no proceedings may take place in the Chamber. The mace is the symbol of the authority of the Legislative Assembly and its Speaker. When the Legislative Assembly is in session, each day begins with the procession of the Speaker and the mace into the Chamber. The Sergeant-at-Arms carries the mace with honour and pride, placing it on a special stand in the centre of the Chamber. The mace remains in the stand until the Assembly adjourns for the day, and then the Sergeant-at-Arms carries it out.
Watch this 11 minute video about the creation of NWT's Mace.
The New Mace
On April 1, 1999, the Northwest Territories bid farewell to the eastern Arctic as it become the territory of Nunavut. In that same year, the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories commissioned three well-known northern artists to design and create a new mace that would be representative of the “new” Northwest Territories.
Dubbed the "Snowflake Team,” Bill Nasogaluak, Dolphus Cadieux, and Allyson M. Simmie started work to create one of the most ornate and unique designs in mace history. The three artists, who had worked as a team on previous projects, have examples of their master skills in painting, carving, and metalwork displayed around the world. Combining their skills, cultural backgrounds, and artistic knowledge, this incredible team – along with some of Canada's top silversmiths – produced a masterpiece of priceless art for the people of the Northwest Territories.
Composed mainly of durable silver and bronze, the mace measures 1.5 metres in length and weighs 12 kilograms.
The top of the mace glistens with an elaborate composite of snowflakes designed to create the illusion of one large, three-dimensional snowflake. As a universal element in the North, the snowflake was chosen for its unique features. Every particle has a six-sided crystalline structure, which gives it strength and a firm foundation, yet there are no two snowflakes exactly alike. The snowflake crown symbolizes the people of the Northwest Territories - their strength, diversity, and the common bond of a new territory and a new age. It also recognizes the respect that northerners have for the traditional link with the British monarchy.
Nestled within the snowflake crown is a golden orb that represents many images significant to the North - the midnight sun, the circle of life, and the world of which we are all a part. On top of the orb sits a silver crosspiece, which together forms an ulu, a tipi, and a house. This represents the cultures of the NWT - the Inuvialuit, the Dene/Métis, and the many non-aboriginals from around the world who have made the NWT their home. On the top of the crosspiece and the very top of the mace is a 1.31 carat diamond from Canada's first diamond mine. It is also one of the first diamonds to be cut at the NWT's first diamond cutting and polishing centre.
Beneath the snowflake crown is a band of silver engraved with the words "One land, many voices.” The phrase is written in the 10 languages - Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich'in, North Slavey, South Slavey, Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun, English, and French - used in the Northwest Territories. Below the band is the head of the mace - a commanding circular panel of carved glacier-spun, stromatolitic marble from the shores of Great Slave Lake.
The six high-relief panels are inlaid in silver and depict northern scenes representing the wildlife and cultures of the NWT. Each panel alternates between a vertical and a horizontal design.
Directly beneath the carved head is a band of beadwork designed to resemble a Delta braid pattern. Beadwork is a traditional art form of the Dene/Métis, and Delta braid is a traditional fabric art of the Inuvialuit from the Mackenzie Delta region near Inuvik. Rosie Firth, an elder from Fort McPherson, created this vibrant piece of beadwork.
The shaft of the mace is a bronze cast of a stylized narwhal tusk. Although narwhals in Canada are primarily found in Nunavut, the tusk replicates the real ones used in the previous maces and was included as a way of honouring our history as a legislature and our ties with Nunavut. It is a way of carrying the past into the future.
Further along the shaft is another element of Dene/Métis heritage - porcupine quillwork. This colourful piece was created by Sarah Hardisty, an elder from Jean Marie River.
The final section of the mace features a six-sided foot of silver carved in shallow relief. As you follow it around, the carving depicts an endless view of the entire landscape of the Northwest Territories from north to south.
The most stunning feature of this mace - and what makes it truly unique - is its sound. Within the language band, the shaft, and the foot are tiny pebbles collected from all 33 communities in the NWT. When the mace is moved, the shifting of the pebbles creates a magical sound similar to a rainstick. To achieve this special sound, the interior of the foot is divided into five compartments and the interior of the shaft is embedded with 12 bronze spikes, specially set at 30-degree angles to achieve maximum tone. This beautiful sound represents the united voices of the people and serves as a reminder of the role of the Legislative Assembly.
The display stand created for the new mace is made from white marble, representing the snow that is a major part of life in the North. Carved into the marble are the images of the mighty Mackenzie River and the two major lakes in the NWT - Great Slave and Great Bear. This portrays the lifeline of the land from the Mackenzie Delta near the Arctic Ocean to the famous Pelican Rapids at Fort Smith.
Adorning the land are images of the territorial flower - the mountain avens - fashioned in silver and NWT gold. Surrounding the flowers are clusters of the oldest rock in the world. This rock, found on an island in the Acasta River near Great Bear Lake, has been dated as 3.962 billion years old. Located between the images of the two lakes are 33 gold nuggets from Con Mine, north of Yellowknife. Arranged in a circle, the nuggets represent the strength and unity of the 33 communities of the NWT.
To learn about all of this in video form, please find our educational video narrated by Danielle Mager.
The First Mace
The Northwest Territories (NWT) received its first mace in 1956. It was presented to the Northwest Territories Council by the then-Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Vincent Massey. Nine Inuit craftsmen from Cape Dorset, a community that is now a part of Nunavut, created the original mace. Working together for 21 days under the direction of well-known artist James Houston, the artisans created a magnificent object of native copper, whalebone, narwhal tusk, muskox horns, Yellowknife gold, Fort Providence porcupine quillwork, and oak wood salvaged from the wreck of the HMS Fury commanded by British Explorer Sir William Parry. The completed mace was 1.7 metres in length and weighed 15 kilograms.
In the late 1950s, the Council held its meetings in various communities across the North. The constant handling, shipping, and temperature and humidity changes took their toll on the delicate natural materials of the mace. After three short years, the original mace was retired to preserve its priceless heritage. It now resides in the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.
A more durable replica was produced, replacing many natural elements with gold-plated brass. Delicate materials that remained to highlight the design include a narwhal tusk, muskox horns, and porcupine quillwork. The replica mace served the Legislative Assembly for 40 years from 1959 to 1999.