Amazing Northern Women Awards celebrate outstanding Deh Cho women

The Status of Women Council of the NWT will soon host the Deh Cho’s first Amazing Northern Women Awards.

The award gala is set to occur in Fort Simpson on Friday, Mar. 8, which is recognized as International Women’s Day.

“We are here for all women and those who identify as women,” said Anna Pontikis McLeod, the Deh Cho board member for the Status of Women Council. “Every woman’s contribution is so important to the world and to their community.

“We’re just hoping to honour women in our beautiful region, and let them know that they’re important and that people are grateful for their efforts.”

Nominations for the event closed on Feb. 26. The nomination form included a section that asked, “What has your nominee done to improve the lives of women in her community, to improve the lives of others in her community, and/or to advance equality for women and girls?”

By the time the nomination process concluded, Pontikis McLeod said more than a dozen people from communities across the Deh Cho had been nominated.

“I wanted to keep the [nomination] process simple,” she said. “I know a lot of these things are very cumbersome, and a lot of people don’t nominate their family and friends because it’s too hard to, so I want to make it super easy.”

Nominees featured people of all ages, including several Elders, and one mother-daughter duo. There will also be one posthumous award recipient. Women in public office, such as chiefs, council members and mayors, were not eligible, as organizers didn’t want the awards to become “political.”

“We wanted to make sure our Elders and a whole bunch of young women in high school were also nominated,” said Pontikis McLeod. “All the nominations come from all walks of life.”

Those who received nominations will be contacted directly and invited to the gala, and their family and friends are welcome to attend. The event will also be open to the public.

The special occasion will take place at Fort Simpson’s rec centre, amid the excitement of the village’s Beavertail Jamboree. It will feature catering, entertainment and Dene interpreters.

“It’s just nice to dress up and be fancy, just be pampered for one day and be celebrated,” said Pontikis McLeod.

The Status of Women Council is behind several similar events around the NWT, including the defunct Wise Women Awards in Yellowknife.

“Those women get honoured and flown to Yellowknife,” she said. “They had this beautiful gala, but here, you’re going to be with your friends, your family, your community, and getting an honour from your community rings a little differently.”

Pontikis McLeod was appointed to the council in August 2022. She is originally from Saskatoon, and moved to Fort Simpson in 2021 to join her husband, who is Métis and Dene.

She is a longtime volunteer, and joined council, in part, to get better acquainted with her new home community.

“I’m a guest here, but I feel like I’m more part of the community now,” she said. “I get personal satisfaction from helping and learning and setting up a framework for future generations and other people to work in similar roles.”

She’s hoping the Deh Cho’s first Amazing Northern Women Awards will be a hit.

“Let’s get together and celebrate each other and show our daughters and our nieces and our moms and all these different generations that it’s important to take the time to celebrate each other and work together,” she said.

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North