‘I am a person that was brought up in a muskrat camp’: Nellie Cournoyea embodies community in new stamp series

Nellie Cournoyea at the unveiling of her stamp in Ulukhaktok ( Photo courtesy of the Inuvialuit Communications Society)

“Every community has a special aura, a special group of people, and in their effort to make a life, they create a stamp on earth,” says Nellie Cournoyea, 83, one of Canada Posts’ new faces celebrated in the Indigenous Leaders stamp series.

Before Cournoyea was leading the Northwest Territories and finalizing land claim settlements she remembers chewing on muskrat tails – her favourite food.

“I am a person that was brought up in a muskrat camp,” she says, “I always operate from that level.”

Over the weekend, Cournoyea’s stamp was unveiled in the community of Ulukhaktok.

“I felt pretty honored to be named,” she says. Although Cournoyea is centered in the stamp, she pays homage to community, sustainable living, tradition, and the many diverse cultures of Canada’s western Arctic.

Cournoyea has lived and worked across several communities including Aklavik, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk, just to name a few.

“I always found that every place you went, the community gave you something,” she says, something that could be helpful for living in a sustainable way.  She attributes the woman she is today to those life lessons.

Although some see a postage stamp as outdated, for others it’s still a reliable means of communication, she says. “Where we come from, we use the post office all the time.”

As a child, she remembers being curious about stamps and the potential they could bring to the community. Now she brings the essence of community back into the stamp, recognizing its shared history with the people of the North.

The stamp features Cournoyea wearing a wolverine-trimmed parka over an image of Sambaa K’e (Trout Lake). But if it were up to her she says, “I’d have to put all their faces on it, but I don’t think there’s a big enough stamp.”

Indigenous leaders such as George Manuel and Thelma Chalifoux will also be celebrated in this collection.

The stamps will be available nationwide on Indigenous Peoples Day.

(Photo courtesy of Canada Post)

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. On her spare time, you can find her at your local coffee shop writing songs, poetry and prose or at the gym out-lifting men. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com or call 867-766-2552 Ext 108