NWT Tartan
NWT Tartan

The Northwest Territorial Pipe Band proudly wears the official tartan of the Northwest Territories.

Mrs. Janet Anderson-Thomson first proposed the idea of a tartan for the NWT after attending an RCMP ball in Yellowknife in 1966. The piper for the occasion was dressed in a turtleneck sweater and an old army kilt of the Mackenzie tartan. In notes contained in the NWT Pipe Band’s records, Mrs. Anderson-Thomson described the piper as “a terribly drab figure.”

At this point in the political development of the Northwest Territories, before the advent of responsible government, the affairs of the government were run under the direction of a vice-regal authority, the Commissioner.  He was a senior appointee of the federal government and embodied aspects of the Premier and the Lieutenant Governor. Mrs. Anderson-Thomson turned to him for assistance.

“After the ball,” wrote Mrs. Anderson-Thomson, “I went and talked to Commissioner Hodgson and coaxed and bullied him into getting our piper dressed in the full panoply of piper’s highland dress at considerable expense, for we got the best of regalia.”

Later, at the encouragement of her husband John, a well-known local land surveyor, Mrs. Anderson-Thomson approached Commissioner Hodgson with the idea of developing an official tartan for the Northwest Territories. Commissioner Hodgson ethusiastically supported the idea.

With the nod to go ahead, Mrs. Anderson-Thomson enlisted the aid of Hugh MacPherson (Scotland) Limited of Edinburgh, the world-renowned designer and manufacturer of tartans. Mr. MacPherson designed three patterns, which were considered by a selection committee struck by Commissioner Hodgson. The committee unanimously selected the pattern we know today.

Mrs. Anderson-Thomson chose the colours for the pattern. She wrote that green represents the forests, white for the frozen Arctic Ocean, blue for the Northwest Passage, gold for the mineral wealth of the NWT and the red-orange, which she describes as “autumn colours” represents the barren lands or “Arctic prairies.” The tartan also contains a thin black line representing the northern treeline. Mrs. Anderson-Thomson was presented with a small bolt of the new tartan in appreciation of her initiative.

The tartan was registered at the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms for Scotland, in Edinburgh in 1972. In the Scottish Tartans world register, the tartan is known as the Northwest Territories Canadian District Tartan # WR662.

The NWT Council, the predecessor to today’s Legislative Assembly, officially approved the tartan in its January 1973 Session. The tartan of the Northwest Territories enjoyed its 30th anniversary in January 2003.

On June 15, 2015, the tartan was made the official tartan of the Northwest Territories by a Northwest Territories statute: The Territorial Emblems and Honours Act.