A number of Northerners, including NHL player Jordin Tootoo and filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, will be honoured Monday in a ceremony recognizing outstanding Indigenous leadership at Ottawa's Rideau Hall.
The honourees, which include Indigenous advocate Sylvia Maracle and Canadian rockers The Tragically Hip, will each receive the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division), the Polar Medal, or the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers.
Meritorious Service Decorations are given in two divisions, military and civil, to celebrate Canadians who have performed an exceptional deed. The Polar Medal recognizes extraordinary service to Canada's polar regions and the North.
In total, nine people from Alaska, Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Cree territory in Northern Quebec will be honoured with Meritorious Service Decorations or the Polar Medal. They are:
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Meritorious Service Cross
Considered one of Canada's top directors, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's film Angry Inuk, released in 2016, is a powerful look into the Inuit seal hunt, aiming to change perceptions that have led to seal product bans in markets like the European Union. Arnaquq-Baril is based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and is the founder of Unikkaat Studio Inc., using her films to document traditional and contemporary Inuit culture.
Marie Wilson, Meritorious Service Cross
Based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Marie Wilson's long legacy in the North includes being a pivotal force in the creation of Northern broadcast programs CBC Northbeat and CBC Igalaaq. Last year, Wilson received the Order of the Northwest Territories, as well as the Order of Canada. Wilson is being recognized for her work as a commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, alongside J. Wilson Littlechild and Murray Sinclair.
Hovak Johnston and Marjorie Tahbone, Meritorious Service Medal
Hovak Johnston, from Yellowknife, and Marjorie Tahbone, from Nome, Alaska, are being recognized for their Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, which aimed to bring back the practice of traditional Inuit tattoos to communities across the North. Last year, the pair tattooed about 20 women in Kugluktuk, Nunavut.
William MacLeod, Meritorious Service Medal
William MacLeod, from the Cree community of Mistissini, Quebec, is being recognized for inspiring Cree youth through his success in economically developing the region. MacLeod headed up the Cree Construction and Development Company for 11 years while remaining true to his Indigenous roots. He was also the first Cree wildlife conservation officer in the province.
Meika McDonald, Meritorious Service Medal
An Arctic Sports legend from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Meika McDonald was a top performer at the Arctic Winter Games — first competing in 1988 — setting a world record in the Alaskan High Kick in the process.
Since then, McDonald has taken a lead role in promoting Arctic Sports, developing a technical training package, travelling the country demonstrating the games to young athletes, and having sat on the Arctic Winter Games' international committee since 2007.
Jordin Tootoo, Meritorious Service Medal
Originally hailing from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Jordin Tootoo is beloved in the territory for being the first Inuk player in the National Hockey League. Now with the Chicago Blackhawks, Tootoo regularly returns to his home territory, promoting healthy living and encouraging conversations about difficult topics like addiction and suicide.
Ann Maje Raider, Polar Medal
Ann Maje Raider, from Watson Lake, Yukon, is a former chief of the Liard First Nation. Currently, she heads up the Liard Aboriginal Women's Society, where she has been recognized for creating a protocol between the society and local police that has since been adopted throughout northern Canada.
Darlene Scurvey, Polar Medal
From Whitehorse, Yukon, Darlene Scurvey is being recognized for her work promoting traditional language and culture as an early childhood educator at the Duska'a Head Start Family Learning Centre. Scurvey works with local elders to provide culturally relevant learning experiences to preschool-age children.