Ella Scothorn’s NAIG 2023 medal design becomes reality

NAIG 2023 co-medal designers Ella Scothorn (left) and Tayla Fern Paul. Scothorn did the initial design, and Fern Paul finalized it. (Healey photo)

MILLBROOK FIRST NATION: A medal designed by a Hardwood Lands girl will be handed out to more than 3,500 athletes at this summer’s North American Indigenous Games, being hosted in Kjiputuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, and Millbrook.

The design by Ella Scothorn, a Grade nine student at Hants East Rural High, was unveiled at a ceremony at Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Millbrook First Nation on Jan. 17. Scothorn did the initial design for the medal when she was in Grade six. Mi’kmaw artist Tayla Fern Paul finalized the medal design.

Scothorn, looking a bit nervous as she stood in front of a full house in a conference room behind the medals with Fern Paul to her side, explained how her design came about. Her inspiration? An ancient Mi’kmaw petroglyph of a star traveler.

She learned about the medal design contest when her Grade six teacher gave her and others in the class a blank template and encouraged them to create a design, and in the end it was hers that stood out.

“Each person in my class got this piece of paper on it with a medal on it,’ said Scothorn. “We were told to draw our design inside that we chose. Our teacher was teaching us about the Indigenous culture at the time too.”

The youngsters design was the winner chosen from among more than 100 design submissions in an open design competition. The medal design competition was run in schools, and the winner was voted on by a Culture Advisory Committee.

Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade speaks at the unveiling. (Healey photo)


The unveiling event saw the medals paraded in with dancers performing the Ko’jua as it was song by an Indigenous artist.

Organizers said the medals, which will be produced by The Pin People, showcase Mi’kmaq art including a traditional eight-pointed star and highlights the vibrant colours of NAIG 2023.

Dancers perform the Ko’jua dance. (Healey photo)
Indigenous athletes parade the NAIG 2023 medals in for the ceremony. (Healey photo)

The design of the medals incorporate several Mi’kmaq symbols:

  • An eight-pointed star inspired by Mi’kmaq petroglyphs found in Bedford, N.S. represents the territory where all will gather
  • A symbol that represents the world “L’nu.” The term the Mi’kmaq use to describe themselves as Indigenous people. It means “the people.”
  • The curved designs are common in Mi’kmaw cultural drawings and etchings and are meant to represent the things that grow and transpire when you follow your dreams.
  • The ribbon features the NAIG 2023 logo and “Kjipuktuk,” meaning “Great Harbour”
Tayla Fern Paul. (Healey photo)

Fern Paul said her inspiration was the design that Scothorn did.

“I came in to fill in some of the details and bring it together,” said Fern Paul to the crowd explaining her part in the medal design. “My inspiration was Ella’s work design. I am happy I could help.”


What does it mean for Scothorn to see the design become reality?

“It makes me feel really proud,” said Scothorn, who said it took her awhile to create the design.

Tex Marshall. (Healey photo)

George “Tex” Marshall, president of the 2023 NAIG Host Society, said they’re proud to finally unveil the medals that the two artists designed in collaboration.

“The design truly captures the spirit of the Games and Mi’kma’ki as a whole,” said Marshall.

The 2023 North American Indigenous Games will be held July 15 to 23, 2023. For more information or to see how you can volunteer, check out www.naig2023.com.

Chief Bob Gloade; Ella; Tayla; and Tex. (Healey photo)