Three NWT residents received the territory’s highest honour at a ceremony at the Legislative Assembly building in Yellowknife, last Tuesday.

Sharon Firth stands with the Order of the NWT around her neck. Dylan Short/NNSL photo

Les Carpenter, Lillian Elias and Sharon Firth have been designated new members of the Order of the Northwest Territories. The award recognizes “individuals who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavor benefitting the people of the NWT or elsewhere,” according to the assembly’s website.

“These three recipients have made differences in the lives of Northerners in a number of ways, they have each been role models for youth in the territory and have made a difference in people’s lives,” stated Legislative Assembly clerk Tim Mercer in a press release.

Les Carpenter was honoured posthumously for his work in communications and Indigenous languages and rights. Carpenter first began his career with CBC in Inuvik, where he earned the nickname “Mr. Saturday Night” as the host of the stations Saturday night request show.

More recently, Carpenter was the CEO of the Native Communications Society, which owns CKLB radio station. Carpenter died earlier this year after a battle with cancer. His brother Merle accepted the award on his behalf.

Lillian Elias of Inuvik was awarded the honour for her work revitalizing the Inuvialuit language. Elias is an interpreter with the Legislative Assembly and continues to travel with the Inuvialuit communications team to produce films on Inuvialuit traditions and culture.

Elias said that it was special for her to receive the award but that she would like to see younger people who are working with Indigenous languages to be recognized as well.

“It’s good for elders like myself to get it but I just think that the more important part of it is that if you start recognizing these people that are trying to keep up their language and culture, that way they can be encouraged to keep on going,” said Elias.

Elias is one of the original Mackenzie Delta Drummers and Dancers who began to revitalize the Western Style Inuit Drum Dance. She also worked to unify the written form of the Inuvialuit language. She has been working with Indigenous languages since she was 17 years old and says she won’t stop until “she can’t walk or talk anymore.”

Sharon Firth, originally from Aklavik and now living in Yellowknife, was recognized for her athletic accomplishments and work with youth sports in the territory. Firth and her sister Shirley were among the first Indigenous athletes to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics, and she has already been awarded the Order of Canada.

“I’m still in shock because I just did not expect this at all,” said Firth after the ceremony. “It means a lot because it is from the people and it’s for me to share with all of the residents of the Northwest Territories, especially the youth.”

This was the third year that the merit has been awarded and the first year that it was officially recognized by the Canadian Honour System, meaning the award is now recognized across the country.

The Order of the NWT designation was awarded to up to 10 people in its first two years but can now be received by three residents a year. Recipients are nominated by residents of the NWT. Nomination forms for 2019 order entrants will be on the Legislative Assembly’s website early next year.

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