Artist Myrna Pokiak and Tuktoyaktuk
Artist Myrna Pokiak and Tuktoyaktuk

Coin Honors Canada’s Culture

A new coin celebrates 150 years of the Northwest Territories.

Canada is huge. Ten provinces and three territories make up the northern nation. Each of those lands has its own rich history. This summer, one of them — the Northwest Territories — turned 150 years old. Canada celebrated the sesquicentennial with a special collector’s coin.

Myrna Pokiak designed one side of the $30 silver piece. As an artist from Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, she filled the coin with her memories. “I was born and raised on the Arctic Ocean,” Pokiak told News-O-Matic. So she included the ocean on the coin — plus ice-covered hills called pingos. “We saw those while out traveling,” Pokiak said. “And we knew we were close to home.”

The coin shows other natural symbols of the Northwest Territories. For example, it includes the Mackenzie River — the longest river in Canada. The sun represents northern areas where the sun shines all day in the summer. Below that, a flock of birds is migrating across Canada. “The land and the animals are a big part of our beliefs,” said Pokiak, “and the way we live our life here.”

Of course, Pokiak wanted to feature the people of the Northwest Territories. “It was important to showcase the Indigenous groups,” she explained. Indigenous people have lived in the territory for thousands of years, including groups called the Métis, the Dene, and the Inuvialuit. “I wanted to make sure each one had a big representation on the coin,” explained the artist.

For the Métis, there is a “sash that goes straight through the middle of the coin,” explained Pokiak. “The tipi represents the Dene,” she added. A tipi (or teepee) is a type of tent. “And then the ulus represent the Inuvialuit.” An ulu is a traditional knife used by the Inuvialuit people. There are 11 ulus for the 11 official languages of the Northwest Territories.

Pokiak knows these Indigenous groups well. She is a member of the Inuvialuit. “And my husband is Méti and Dene,” she explained. “So my children are from three cultures.” Pokiak has three daughters. See the girl on the coin, drumming? She could be one.

Today, the Northwest Territories is more than 150 years old. Pokiak’s family is a big part of that past. Now Pokiak has made her mark. And her art — including her initials — will live on with this coin into Canada’s future as well. “It’s an honor,” she said.

Updated September 7, 2020, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

Coin Honors Canada’s Culture

A new coin celebrates 150 years of the Northwest Territories.

Artist Myrna Pokiak and Tuktoyaktuk
Artist Myrna Pokiak and Tuktoyaktuk

Canada is huge. Ten provinces and three territories make up the northern nation. Each of those lands has its own rich history. This summer, one of them — the Northwest Territories — turned 150 years old. Canada celebrated the sesquicentennial with a special collector’s coin.

Myrna Pokiak designed one side of the $30 silver piece. As an artist from Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, she filled the coin with her memories. “I was born and raised on the Arctic Ocean,” Pokiak told News-O-Matic. So she included the ocean on the coin — plus ice-covered hills called pingos. “We saw those while out traveling,” Pokiak said. “And we knew we were close to home.”

The coin shows other natural symbols of the Northwest Territories. For example, it includes the Mackenzie River — the longest river in Canada. The sun represents northern areas where the sun shines all day in the summer. Below that, a flock of birds is migrating across Canada. “The land and the animals are a big part of our beliefs,” said Pokiak, “and the way we live our life here.”

Of course, Pokiak wanted to feature the people of the Northwest Territories. “It was important to showcase the Indigenous groups,” she explained. Indigenous people have lived in the territory for thousands of years, including groups called the Métis, the Dene, and the Inuvialuit. “I wanted to make sure each one had a big representation on the coin,” explained the artist.

For the Métis, there is a “sash that goes straight through the middle of the coin,” explained Pokiak. “The tipi represents the Dene,” she added. A tipi (or teepee) is a type of tent. “And then the ulus represent the Inuvialuit.” An ulu is a traditional knife used by the Inuvialuit people. There are 11 ulus for the 11 official languages of the Northwest Territories.

Pokiak knows these Indigenous groups well. She is a member of the Inuvialuit. “And my husband is Méti and Dene,” she explained. “So my children are from three cultures.” Pokiak has three daughters. See the girl on the coin, drumming? She could be one.

Today, the Northwest Territories is more than 150 years old. Pokiak’s family is a big part of that past. Now Pokiak has made her mark. And her art — including her initials — will live on with this coin into Canada’s future as well. “It’s an honor,” she said.

Updated September 7, 2020, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

Draw it AskRus