The mace embarks on Baffin celebrity tour



When the people of Cape Dorset packed their community hall last weekend, they weren’t craning their necks to see dignitaries.

They wanted to see and touch the great club Anaotalok, the mace of the Northwest Territories.

Deputy premier and South Baffin MLA Goo Arlooktoo, Sam Gargan, the Speaker of the legislative assembly, NWT Commissioner Helen Maksagak, Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Lazarus Arreak and Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Whitford accompanied the mace on a tour of Baffin communities last weekend.

And everywhere they went, youth and elders wanted a peek. The mace was the celebrity that caused the excitement among residents in Cape Dorset, Kimmirut and Iqaluit.

People wanted to see the craftsmanship of the Inuit artists who, forty-two years earlier, created the symbol of authority of government in the Northwest Territories. The mace must be in the legislative assembly for the government to conduct its business.

It’s been several years since the mace has travelled, but it left its Yellowknife home to take part in a ceremony to honor the Cape Dorset artists who created the original mace in 1955.

The original, designed with whalebone, copper, gold and muskox, is too fragile to travel so the replica, which took its place in 1959, made the trip.

Inuit craftsmanship

The replica mace was greeted with no less enthusiasm when it visited the hamlet office and school in Cape Dorset, the hamlet office in Kimmirut and Inuksuk High School and Arctic College in Iqaluit. Children gathered around it to touch the tusk and muskox horns while elders admired the carved designs of traditional northern life.

Arreak said the mace represents not only the authority of the GNWT, but it’s a testament to the creativity and dedication of Inuit. He first saw it in a magazine in the 1960s.

“One thought that came to my mind was that this was made by professionals, people who could visualize, people who could craft.

“Once we put our minds to a project and we stick to it, then it can be done,” he added, alluding to the creation of Nunavut.

Original mace too fragile

Brass replaced much of the original materials, but muskox horns, porcupine quillwork and a narwhal tusk highlight the replica. In the 38 years it’s been in use, the replica’s narwhal tusk has broken once. The total replacement value of the replica is about $60,000. The original is priceless.

Because of its delicate condition, the original is kept in storage at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Curator of Collections Joanne Bird said it’s intact, but needs to be handled delicately.

“What’s fragile about it is the quillwork is faded and the tusk, the ivory, is cracking where the mace head is because it’s very heavy.”

It’s stored in a humidity and temperature controlled storage room because changes in climate cause the artifact to expand or contract, which causes it to split.

Bird said because there’s limited climate-controlled public display space, the mace is kept in storage.

“It’s not in a public display area , but certainly if people want to see it we could take them into the back and show it to them.”

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