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Andrew Alden

The Mace of the Northwest Territories

By February 20, 2013

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While I was researching the geological emblems of Canada I was captivated by a remarkable object: the ceremonial mace used by the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. A mace is a stylized weapon, something like the ornate baton carried by a drum major. The NWT Assembly's mace is a weighty staff of silver 1.2 meters long. At its tip is a diamond from Canada's first diamond mine, cut in Canada's first diamond cutting center. Its head is a block of stromatolitic marble, carved with scenes from the territory. Inside the decorated silver chamber at its foot are pebbles from each of the NWT's 33 communities, which tumble and rattle as the mace is handled. The mace is brought in for every legislative meeting: theoretically it is used to guard the Speaker.

When not in use, the mace is stored on a stand made of white Canadian marble, carved with a depiction of the NWT's landscape. The stand is decorated with silver and gold replicas of the territorial flower, the mountain aven, with pebbles of Acasta gneiss, the world's oldest rock, placed around them. Also on the stand is a circle of 33 Canadian gold nuggets. And those are just the geological aspects of this splendid object.

For more information about its features and their significance, visit the Legislative Assembly's website. Luscious closeup photos are displayed by photographer James Mackenzie, and Wikipedia's photo shows the stand well. But for me the best pictures of the mace include the faces of NWT children charmed by this embodiment of their multi-tribal union; David Overall has an example from the day the mace came to his remote school. Even the humblest stone can be made sublime.

Related:
Earth art gallery
Pebble symbolism
Optical effects in minerals
Official gemstones of the U.S. states
NWT facts
NWT study unit

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