From school dances to nation-wide campaigns, Marilyn Napier has volunteered her time, energy and services to a wide variety of initiatives over more than 40 years.
Napier’s efforts were recently recognized as she was named individual volunteer of the year by the department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) at the 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Awards, held during the NTW Association of Communities annual general meeting earlier this month.
Napier was unable to attend the awards ceremony, but the Northern Journal was able to catch up with her to discuss her time as a dedicated volunteer.
“When they phoned me to tell me that I got the award I was just ecstatic,” Napier said. “I’ve never received anything like that for all the hard work I’ve done in the years.”
Her efforts started at the age of 12, when she joined the student government at her high school in Behchoko.
With years of experience already in her arsenal, Napier moved south to McLennan, Alta., at the age of 18, where she became one of the youngest members of the local Ladies of the Order of the Royal Purple organization, a volunteer group adjacent to the male-run Elks of Canada.
It was in McLennan that Napier also started working with friendship centres, an activity she would pursue for decades to come.
In 1979, Napier moved to Fort Smith where she started volunteering with the Union of Northern Workers Local #2, igniting decades of service with the organization. It was then that she also started lending her time to the Fort Smith Métis Council, where she was voted in as vice-president and would eventually become president for several years.
Soon after, Napier moved to the Rae Lakes region where she started her work with the Native Women’s Association of the NWT. For several decades now, Napier has used her position with the organization to increase awareness about systemic violence against Aboriginal women.
Napier sat on the the organization’s board before going on to become the association’s president from 1992 to 1997 and again from 2011 to 2013. She has also sat on the Native Women’s Association of Canada executive board.
After another brief stint in Fort Smith, Napier traveled west to Fort Simpson, taking up residence for 11 years. During her time there, she juggled her volunteer roles with the local friendship centre, as the president of the Fort Simpson Métis Council and as a member of the village council.
While managing a busy volunteer schedule, Napier simultaneously raised a family and earned her keep working for the GNWT. She moved through the ranks, starting out as a finance clerk and eventually becoming financial adviser. She also completed a stint as coordinator of continuing education with Aurora College.
Ever humble, Napier said it is the joy of volunteering her time that has kept her going for so long.
“It was never for recognition, it was because I felt I was needed and I felt that because of my knowledge I was able to help,” she said.