North

Six 'Wise Women' honoured for contributions to N.W.T. communities

The Status of Women Council of the NWT honoured six women from across the territory during a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 

Women honoured for a range of work, from preserving Indigenous languages to helping their communities

Five of the six recipients from left to right, Eunice Nasogaluak , Lois Philipp, Bertha Rabesca Zoe, Vicky Orlias and Betty Harnum at the Status of Women Council of the NWT Wise Women awards. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

It's been a big week for women in politics in the N.W.T — and on Friday, more women were honoured for their contributions in their communities.

The Status of Women Council of the NWT announced the recipients of this year's Wise Women Awards. Six women from across the territory were honoured during a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 

The recipients were: Eunice Nasogalauk, Lois Philipp, Bertha Rabesca Zoe, Vicky Orlais, Betty Harnum, and Tina McNeill.

The women were honoured for their various actions, from helping teach youth on the land, to advocating for people experiencing homelessness, and preserving traditional languages, culture and practices.

"I feel very honoured and humbled to have received the award today, especially in light of the results of the election," said Rabesca Zoe from Behchoko, who received the award for the Tlicho region.

'A lot of changes' coming

The 2019 territorial election proved historic for women in the Northwest Territories; a record nine women were elected to the territory's 19 seats. On Thursday, Caroline Cochrane became the territory's second female premier

Five of seven MLAs elected to cabinet, including Cochrane, are women; the most number of women ever elected to cabinet in the N.W.T. 

Rabesca Zoe said it's exciting to be honoured, especially in the wake of a historic number of women being elected to the Legislative Assembly. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

It's a "game changer" said Rabesca Zoe. "To be able to see the calibre of women that are in cabinet and as MLAs, I think we're gonna see a lot of changes."

Rabesca Zoe was honoured for her long resume of work, including as legal council for the Tlicho government assisting in self-government and land claim agreements. She's spent the last three years helping other Indigenou governments with their agreements. 

She said she looks forward to working with all the women elected to legislature, some of whom were in the audience as she received her award. 

Harnum with her award from the Status of Women Council of the NWT. She was honoured for her work on CBC's Indigenous languages archives project. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Betty Harnum was the territory's first language commissioner. She was honoured in the North Slave region for her work as lead on CBC's Indigenous languages archives project.

The project sees a team of 17 people archiving 75,000 hours worth of recorded stories collected over six decades by CBC in eight Indigenous languages: Gwich'in, Inuvialuktun, Tlicho, North Slavey, South Slavey, Denesuline, Cree and Inuktitut.

"I was a little white kid growing up in Toronto with no other cultural influences or anything, so this journey has been amazing," Harnum said. 

Most of the other recipients' speeches were short, with most thanking their nominators before returning to their seats.

"I think I might get dessert!" said Lois Phillipp from Fort Providence, upon receiving her award for the Dehcho region.

Phillipp was honoured for mentoring young people through post-secondary school, and for helping pass on her local language, culture and way of life.

The Status of Women Council of the NWT has been honouring wise women since 1992.

Written by Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi, with files from Kate Kyle

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