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Mandate and History

Founded in 2007, NorthWords NWT is a major supporter of NWT authors, proud to foster the careers of both emerging and established Northern writers by offering a platform to share their work through workshops, mentorships and readings. Our literary arts non-profit hosts year-round programming including the open mic series GATHER and the annual NorthWords NWT Writers Festival in May/June in Yellowknife and other communities, celebrating 20 years in 2025.

Mission Statement

At NorthWords NWT, we are dedicated to supporting and promoting the literary culture of the Northwest Territories. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on the stories and voices from our region, providing a platform for local writers and storytellers to connect with a broader audience. Through our support, we aim to weave the rich narratives of the North into the wider fabric of Canadian literature.

Vision Statement

Our vision is a future where the work of writers and storytellers from the Northwest Territories is celebrated and valued across Canada. NorthWords NWT envisions a literary community that thrives on the diversity of its voices, fostering understanding and connection through the power of storytelling. We believe in the transformative impact of these northern stories, aspiring to enrich Canadian culture and inspire a more inclusive society.

History of the Festival

The NorthWords NWT Writers Festival in Yellowknife is a significant event that highlights Northern and Indigenous writing. It began in 2006 when a group of local writers and literary enthusiasts, including Cathy Jewison, Doris McCann, Larry Adamson, Judith Drinnan, and Richard Van Camp, decided to create a platform for Northern voices. Their goal was to bring together writers from the Northwest Territories and the rest of Canada to share stories and experiences.

In its early years, the festival was small but ambitious, supported by initial sponsors like the Tlicho Government and DeBeers Canada. As NorthWords NWT quickly gained a reputation, it began to draw prominent authors to Yellowknife, turning the Festival into a prestigious event in the Canadian literary calendar. This success was partly due to the festival's commitment to Northern and Indigenous literature, creating a unique space for cultural exchange.

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Recognizing the need for structure as the festival expanded, the organizers appointed an Executive Director and then an Event Coordinator to manage our operations. These roles are crucial in maintaining the Festival's momentum, handling everything from funding applications to hosting various events throught the year.

One of the Festival's significant achievements is the publication of Coming Home: Stories from the NWT, an anthology that offered Northern writers a chance to be published. This project reflected NorthWords NWT's mission to promote Northern voices and contribute to Canada's literary diversity.

The Festival owes much of our success to the community's support and the dedication of many individuals, including the Board of Directors and many dedicated volunteers. 

Richard Van Camp's involvement has been particularly impactful, providing inspiration and mentorship to emerging Northern writers. His presence at the Festival embodies the event's spirit of encouragement and community.

Today, the NorthWords NWT Writers Festival is a multi-day tradition that attracts a wide audience, offering a range of activities from readings and workshops to special events and open mics. It stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of providing a platform for Northern and Indigenous voices in the Canadian literary landscape.