Igloolik artist Germaine Arnaktauyok designed the $2 coin that commemorated the creation of Nunavut in 1999. (Photo courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint)

Looking back at coin and stamp commemorations of Nunavut

Keepsakes illustrate a small picture of the beauty and history of the territory

By Kierstin Williams

Nunavut’s beautiful scenery, iconic leaders, its animals and culture have been captured in several commemorative coin and stamp releases issued by the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post over the territory’s 25-year history.

The mint issued a commemorative $2 coin in 1999 to celebrate the founding of the territory on April 1 that year. The backside of the coin, featuring a drum dancer, was designed by Igloolik-born artist Germaine Arnaktauyok.

The design re-emerged in 2019 to celebrate Nunavut’s 20-year anniversary, this time on a $20 coin crafted with pure gold sourced from Nunavut mines.

A 10-year anniversary coin, designed by artist Andrew Qappik, was issued in 2009. It depicts a hunter performing a drum dance with faces, young and old, looking to each side of him.

Qappik also designed Nunavut’s coat of arms, which was featured in the mint’s 2012 provincial coat of arms collection of 14-karat gold coins.

Most recently, Nunavut’s floral emblem, the purple saxifrage, appeared in the mint’s 2021 Floral Emblems of Canada collection of $3 fine silver coins. The colourful florals showed the emblem in vintage-styled full bloom on the tail side.

Over the years, Canada Post has issued 12 Nunavut-related stamps that exhibited the beautiful scenery of the territory, its animals and most recently, a celebrated Inuk leader.

The commemorative stamp celebrated the creation of Nunavut in 1999. (Photo courtesy of Canada Post)

For the birthdate of the territory, Canada Post put out a Nunavut-themed stamp that pictured smiling Inuit children across a colourful sky and Inuksuks standing along the hilled landscape.

In the years after that, Canada Post featured Nunavut parks and tourist attractions like Auyuittuq National Park, Wilberforce Falls, the ice fields and fjord in Sirmilik.

In 2015, an Iqaluit sun dog was captured as part of the Weather Wonder collection. It was one of five stamps issued.

For Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2017, a stamp featuring the image of Leah Ejangiaq Kines of Arctic Bay, in a photo taken by her husband Clare Kines, was one of 10 showcasing significant events since the country’s centennial.

The stamp celebrated the creation of Nunavut as a major change to the political map of Canada.

Most recently, a stamp honouring Jose Kusugak, a leader in the creation of Nunavut, was one of three unveiled during National Indigenous History Month in 2022.

It featured a portrait of Kusugak and his name written in Inuktitut — a testament to his work as an Inuktitut and Inuit history teacher that led to the creation of the dual writing system seen throughout Nunavut today.

  • Former Northwest Territories premier Nellie Cournoyea, who played an important role in discussions about forming the territory of Nunavut, has been honoured with a Canada Post stamp as part of its Indigenous Leaders stamp series. (Photo courtesy of Canada Post)
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