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Mackenzie River Race Map

Curated Submission
Northwest Territories
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Moose hide, felt marker ink; Tanning, hand-drawn
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 990.026.001
This map was drawn with felt markers on commercially tanned moose hide in 1970 to commemorate a canoe race down the Mackenzie River in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Northwest Territories. The Centennial year featured a Royal tour across the territory, fireworks, feasts, dances, parades, a sculpture competition and travelling exhibition, and a commemorative mail run by dog team. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development at the time, Jean Chrétien, and Northwest Territories Commissioner Stuart Hodgson participated in a torchlit snowmobile trail ride.
The Sir Alexander Mackenzie Canoe Race was part of the celebrations and is now known as the 1970 Northwest Territories Centennial Canoe Race. During the gruelling event, 10 teams covered 1,812 kilometers, with 60 voyageurs from communities across the territories wielding paddles. The competitors departed Fort Providence on July 9 and raced downriver for 19 days, cheered by communities along the route. The finish line was at Inuvik, where Fort McPherson’s team was declared the winner of the race and collected the $13,000 cash prize.
The logo seen at the top right-hand corner of the map was the Centennial symbol, three figures in parkas representing unity and the spirit of celebration. The logo was reproduced on souvenir flags and medallions, decaled on the bows of the canoes, and even branded onto buffalo burgers in Fort Smith. It came to be known popularly as the “unity symbol,” a term still heard today. The map is signed by team participants, people in the communities through which the race passed, and by Centennial celebration dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, and Prince Charles. Prince Philip even fired the starting shot from a Winchester rifle. The map survives as unique documentation of a thrilling event and celebratory time.
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