Among the fictitious streets of Metropolis, pedestrians can look up to see the streak of a red cape across the sky, its wearer always ready to fight evil. A crowd of adoring citizens gather below, including one of Superman’s favourites—the ambitious Daily Planet reporter, Lois Lane.
In Yellowknife, citizens hold admiration for Lois instead—or at least the actor who played her, Margot Kidder. That’s pretty clear when you cross a quiet road in Old Town and see a sign slightly shrouded in trees, called Lois Lane. But the sign isn’t entirely meant as an ode to the actor, who was born in this town in 1948.
“I said, ‘I don’t think [the sign is] just about you,’ to Margie. And saying something like that to Margie was often not heard very well because she thought most things were about her,” jokes Kidder’s brother John.
The street sign went up in the early 1980s when the Back Bay Community Association worked with City Hall to assign names to various streets in Peace River Flats. Lois Little was a member of that association and the namesake of the other half of the street. She explains that since she lived on one side of the street, that side was physically named after her, while the other side pays homage to Kidder.
Since moving to Yellowknife in 1975, Little has supported the community through her volunteer work on several boards. Among her roles, Little is co-chair for the NWT branch of Council of Canadians, which advocates for better social programs, clean water, and social justice. Over the years, she has tried to stop the creation of a hydroelectric dam in the territory, protested against pipelines, and tried to influence decision-making against fracking. The list goes on, but Little says what she’s most proud of is encouraging her fellow citizens to take action as well.
Although it is not always easy, Little says she fights for her adopted city because it’s what needs to be done.
“We live in a world where everyone isn’t equal and that’s not the kind of world I would like to live in,” she says. “Whenever you make your home somewhere, you are a part of that community—wherever it is you live—so as a citizen and a member of a community, you have the responsibility to contribute and make it the best place it can possibly be.”
Although Kidder only spent the first three years of her life in Yellowknife, compared to Little’s 45 years, she held on to her northern connection just as much as the city holds onto her.
Margot moved often due to her father’s career as a mining engineer, but she eventually started her acting in Toronto. She acted in horror films like Black Christmas and Amityville Horror, but it was her part as Lois Lane that earned her biggest claim to fame.
“When she tested, [Superman director Richard Donner] said ‘you’re it,’ just like that—bing bang—you’re in,” says John.
Kidder continued acting until her death in 2018, but for years before that she turned her life toward activism. Kidder joined many protests in the United States, including one against the Keystone XL pipeline, where she was arrested in 2011 during a demonstration.
She even became an American citizen in 2005, saying it was so she could legitimately protest without the fear of deportation.
“Her one last political stance was with Standing Rock,” says John, about the Indigenous protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. “Her bones were breaking, but she still went out in the middle of winter to live outside, under rude circumstances, to do what she could to advance that cause.”
Regardless of where her filming or protests took Kidder, John says her love for the North was no act.
“She thought of herself intensely as a Northerner. It gave her strength when she went through some fearful circumstances,” says John, referring to Kidder’s struggles with mental health issues.
When Kidder died at age 69, John returned to Yellowknife to spread part of her ashes in Frame Lake—which is when he met with Little. The two discussed many things, including the famous sign.
“We laughed about the confusion,” he says. “I suspect it may have been named more for her than Margie, but it’s kind of cool to have it both ways and to have it a bit ambiguous that way.”
While the sign acts as confirmation of Kidder’s northern heritage, Little responds modestly when asked what it means to her.
“It’s when you know you have been around a long time,” she says. “It was certainly an honour, of course, but it’s really an indication of longevity.”
Between the two women’s active careers fighting for justice, one thing is clear: the sign was named after real life superheroes, comic books aside.