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Canadian bank note longlist: Pauline Johnson and Pitseolak Ashoona

One of two iconic Indigenous women could be featured on the next series of Canadian currency

Canada will soon be featuring a woman on its new series of bank notes, and one of two Indigenous women have the chance to make the cut.

On International women’s day this year, the federal government launched a public consultation, which ended on April 15, to select one iconic woman to feature on Canadian currency. An independent advisory council whittled down a massive list of online submissions to just 12 women.

Mohawk poet E. Pauline Johnson and Pitseolak Ashoona, an Inuit graphic designer and artist, are both on the longlist.

To be considered in the selection process, the women needed to fit certain criteria. All nominees had to have demonstrated outstanding leadership or achievement in any field, could not be fictional characters and must have been deceased for at least 25 years.

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Emily Pauline Johnson, also known as just Pauline Johnson or Tekahionwake in Mohawk, was a writer and performer who celebrated her Aboriginal ancestry through her work. Johnson’s father was a hereditary Mohawk chief and her mother was an English immigrant. She wrote and performed for a living, until her death of breast cancer in 1913 at the age of 52, and perhaps her most well known piece of poetry was “The Song My Paddle Sings.”

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Pitseolak Ashoona found her feet in the artistic world after the death of her husband, when she had to provide for her family of 6 children (she had 17 kids over her lifetime). She moved from the interior of Baffin Island to Cape Dorset and began drawing for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative print studio. Drawing eased the pain from the loss of her husband and her productive career spanned about 25 years. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada and died in Cape Dorset in 1983.

The advisory council, using the results of a public opinion survey on the 12 nominees, will select 3-5 women for a shortlist.

These names will then be handed to Canada’s finance minister, who will ultimately chose which iconic woman will make it onto Canadian currency.

Check out the full longlist of nominees here.

Header image source: Bank of Canada

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