NEWS: Ottawa February 01, 2018 - 9:30 am

Arctic Inspiration Prize hands out $2.4 million to northern innovators

Prize founders announce $60 million donation to prize's trust fund


OTTAWA—“Where did our men go?”

Simeonie Nalukturak recalls a group of women in his hometown of Inukjuak asking that question at a public meeting in the 1990s.

The Nunavik community had just experienced more than a dozen suicides in the span of a month and the community was in crisis.

That meeting went on to spur the creation of the Unaaq Men’s Association, a support group to promote leadership, self-esteem, healing and traditional knowledge among Inukjuak’s young men.

Some 20 years later, a group of a dozen or so Inukjuak men crowded the stage at the Arctic Inspiration Prize gala held in Ottawa last night when their association was awarded $500,000.

The money will go towards its intensive traditional program development, which will pair up youth participants with elders and experienced hunters.

On stage to accept the award, Nalukturak, Unaaq’s president and founding member, spoke about the fear many in his generation have about Inuit traditional knowledge becoming lost in newer generations of Nunavimmiut.

“This (the prize money) will help us get it back,” he told the Ottawa gala.

Eight different projects and programs from across the North—including four from Nunavut and Nunavik—will share $2.4 million in Arctic Inspiration Prize money to help advance their projects.

The AIP’s top $1 million prize was awarded Jan. 31 to the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project, an urban, land-based healing initiative that targets at-risk communities in Yellowknife and surrounding communities.

The project was the second-ever in AIP’s history to win $1 million, though the foundation intends to award a $1 million prize each year going forward.

Nunavut’s winners included:

• Chesterfield Inlet’s Qajaq Program received $140,000 for a project to engage elders and traditional knowledge holders to teach youth how to build and paddle their own traditional qajaqs. The team also plans to build a special qajaq that can be shipped to other communities as a teaching resource.

• The Rankin Rock Hockey Camp was awarded $80,000 to develop youth leadership capacity and to promote healthy active lifestyles in three Kivalliq communities: Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat.

• The North in Focus: Nunavut, Our Land, Our People received $20,000 to prepare a larger application in 2018 to deliver mental health workshops for youth aged 12 and up.

Across the North, Dene Heroes Publication was awarded $100,000 to publish a collaborative book; Rivers to Ridges received $100,000 to open a forest school in Whitehorse and Our Families, Our Way: The Peacemaking Circle received $500,000 for their Yukon-based program.

For projects that might have missed out on funding this year, the AIP is only poised to grow.

Vancouver philanthropists Sima Sharifi and Arnold Witzig, who helped found the prize in 2012, have donated $60 million to the AIP’s Charitable Trust—their entire fortune.

“What is really special about the Arctic Inspiration Prize is that people have given to the prize because they believe northerners are fully capable of finding their own solutions and creating new opportunities,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, who announced the donation Jan. 31.

Sharifi and Witzig said their hope is that the fund will create a growing network of people and organizations with compassion for the North.

The AIP’s fund is now also also sustained by northern businesses, Indigenous organizations and the Rideau Hall Foundation led by former Governor General David Johnston.

The gala’s audience got to see the AIP’s investment at work; 2015 prize laureates Qaggiavuut performed its Inuktitut-language play Kiviuq Returns at the Jan. 31 event.

The AIP gala was hosted in conjunction with the Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase, on this week at Ottawa’s Shaw Centre until Feb. 3.