Ceremonial maces aren’t just symbols of a governing body. In the North they are also works of art. Each Legislative Assembly of the three northern territories has a handsome mace and each mace is crafted to represent the diversity, culture and values of that territory.
The mace is also a symbol of power, which in time long past made it an effective club, used in war, and wielded by the King or Queen. Today the Legislative Mace still symbolizes power, the power of the people in a democracy. Each sitting of the Legislative Assembly is chaired by the Speaker, with the Mace in plain view.
The Sergeant-at-Arms leads the way into the Assembly Chamber followed by the Speaker, and the Mace is placed in its position of honour, so discussion can open. At the end of the day, the Sergeant-at-Arms carries the Mace from the Chamber indicating the end of deliberations.
Each Mace in the northern Territories has a story to tell.
The Mace of the Yukon Legislative Assembly is gold-plated sterling silver, a gift from the people of Canada, presented by Governor General Roland Michener in 1972. RCMP corporal Jim Ballantyne submitted the winning design. This Mace was created by silversmiths at Birks in Montreal at a cost of some $8300. The design represents the Yukon landscape and its people. Details embossed on the head and shaft include the coats of arms of Canada and Yukon, the Yukon floral emblem, fireweed, and a miner, a trapper and a First Nations person. This Mace bears a replica of the Queen’s crown, by special permission.
Northwest Territories Original Mace
The original Northwest Territories Mace was a gift in 1956 from Governor General Vincent Massey. Nine Cape Dorset (Kinngait) artists collaborated on its design, assisted by James Houston, who collected the materials – a narwhal tusk, muskox horns, native copper and traditional Dene quillwork. This stunning piece of art depicts wildlife as well as mineral wealth.
The chief craftsman was Peter Pitseolak, and the chief carver was Ooshawetuk Ipeelie. Other artists involved included Moses Tauki, Nungoshuitok, Ashevak Ezekiel, Kovianaktuliak Parr, Qavaroak Tunnillie, Kovinanatuliak Ottokie and Lutka Qiatsuk. They were paid $70 each. The Mace has a shaft of narwhal tusk, with rings of carved whalebone and stone on the head. Muskox horns point to the four corners. There are bands of porcupine quillwork, and a ring of oak from the wreck of the British ship, HMS Fury. A copper crown recalls the material which first lured Samuel Hearne to the Arctic, and small goid buttons represent Yellowknife mines. This 15 kilogram Mace suffered from temperature changes as it moved from its Ottawa home to northern communities is now priceless and very fragile.
A sturdier gold-plated brass replica of the original was ordered and delivered in 1958. It was designed by J. A. Schrylburt and cost $3500 at the time. Valued at $60,000 in 1997, it too, has suffered damage – the shaft was broken, but repaired. This working Mace served the NWT Assembly for 40 years until 1999. It is on display in the NWT Legislative Assembly building. The original can be viewed in climate-contolled storage at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.
Northwest Territories Current Mace
The creation of Nunavut in 1999 caused a re-think of the NWT Mace. Again, northern artists were called on for the design, and this time they created a Mace with its own voice. When the NWT Sergeant-at-Arms shakes the Mace, tiny pebbles inside create a musical sound. This new Mace was designed by NWT artists Bill Nasogaluak and Dolphus Cadieux with Ontario artist Allyson Simmie. The design includes a 1.3 carat diamond from Ekati, cut and polished in the NWT. A teepee of silver ulus with a house represents the people of the NWT. Snowflakes form the crown. A silver band on the head proclaims “One land, many voices”, etched in 10 languages of the NWT. Six slates of carved marble from the Great Slave Lake area depict the culture, wildlife, resources and history of the NWT. Decorations include decorative beadwork and Delta braid, ancient Acasta Gneiss rock, and 33 gold nuggets from Con Mine. Composed largely of silver and bronze, this Mace weighs just 12 kilograms.
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly commissioned its own unique Mace, presented at the opening of the first Assembly in 1999. Artists involved included the late Mariano Aupilardjuk, Inuk Charlie, Paul Malliki, Mathew Nuqingaq, the late Simata Pitsualik, and Joseph Suqslaq. The original has a shaft of narwhal tusk and is on permanent display in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly building. A working Mace, with a shaft of sturdier synthetic material is used on a day to day basis. This Mace has a 2.25 carat diamond from Jericho mine set into a carved ball of lapis lazuli from one of only three known deposits in the world. Other Nunavut gemstones include quartz, amethyst, garnet, citrine, and white marble. A crown composed of Nanisivik silver is formed from carved common loons. The Mace has an unusual cradle. It rests in the arms of a family of soapstone figures including an elder, a man and a woman, and a child.