Honouring our wisest women

Elaine Lamalice was a recipient of a Wise Woman Award for 2010 from the Status of Women Council of the NWT. The council is putting a call for nominations out for this year’s awards.
— Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Elaine Lamalice never did any of her community work for recognition, and that’s what got her noticed, along with four other women in the NWT, in 2010.

She was the last woman from the Hay River Reserve to receive the Wise Women Award for the Deh Cho region. The awards, doled out every year by the Status of Women Council of the NWT, will be bestowed upon one woman in each of the five regions of the NWT for 2013. Doling out of the awards will coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.

The awards are meant to encourage women in communities across the territory who work behind the scenes, often tirelessly, to make a difference and encourage other women in their communities.

For Lamalice, standing up for what was right meant going against the status quo in some ways, quitting her addictions, and talking openly about feelings and sharing pieces of her painful past. As part of the healing drum society, she has travelled to other communities to facilitate workshops and as part of the Northern national Truth and Reconciliation event in Inuvik in 2011.

“For a long time people would phone me and come to see me to share their stories and their own confusion,” she said. “I encourage a lot of people to share and work towards wellness.”

Currently she is working at Chief Sunrise Education Centre as a community youth counsellor and elder, teaching how to balance Dene culture and traditional lifestyle with a modern school education.

“This way is just to give them a sense of identity of who they really are on the cultural side, and to be proud of who they are,” said Lamalice. “This also helps them to be proud of who they are going to be. That’s how I believe in working with young kids and their self-esteem and self-confidence. I want them to build that up and have them be strong.”

One of her nominators was daughter-in-law Valerie Lamalice of Trout Lake. She said her own outlook on life has changed dramatically since she met Elaine in 1995. She also said Lamalice’s self-healing workshops in Trout Lake helped many
people in the community.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in her since I have known her; she has been healing for quite a long time now,” said Valerie Lamalice. “She struggled with addictions, she’s a residential school survivor. She pushed me to turn my life around. There was a lot of negativity when I was growing up. She taught me how to reverse that and live life more positively.”

Elaine Lamalice said the award encouraged her to continue on with the work she is doing, and thinks it could encourage other women too.

“I was really shocked (to receive the award), because in a lot of ways I was still healing,” she said. “They said I had a big heart for people. It was an honour for me. I felt like, ‘I am somebody’ after all these years.”

Nominations are open until Feb. 1. More information is available at the Status of Women Council, NWT.

Hay River is in the South Slave region for the awards.

— Angele Cano