Isuarsivik spends 2022 Arctic Inspiration $1M prize on land equipment, staff

This year’s winners to be revealed at Ottawa ceremony on Wednesday evening

George Kauki, left, and Sarah May are co-leaders of the Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut project in Nunavik that aims to treat addiction through Inuit values and culture. (Photo courtesy of Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Last year’s Arctic Inspiration Prize brought an exciting opportunity for George Kauki and Sarah May.

They work for the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre as Inuit values and practices co-ordinators.

Kauki and May’s Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut project, which aims to provide on the land as well as Inuit traditional healing for people living with addictions and trauma, was awarded the Arctic Inspiration Prize’s $1 million reward last February.

The 2023 Arctic Inspiration Prize is to be announced at a ceremony in Ottawa as part of the Northern Lights conference and trade show. Two Nunavut projects are shortlisted for the $1-million prize.

Nearly a year later, May and Kauki say they have been able to use that money to get their program rolling.

They’ve purchased equipment they can use on the land for hunting and transportation. They’ve also covered the costs of consultation, and hired new staff to expand their services.

“That’s where we used the funds: for the material that’s going to be needed for the new program, like on the land equipment,” Kauki said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

The timing of the prize was good for Isuarsivik, as its new centre was under construction at the time.

Staff have now started working from the new building, and will soon see their first round of clients.

Even with the new facility, which includes room for 25 patients and their families as well as food and daycare services, much of the healing activities will continue on the land.

Isuarsivik patients will have the opportunity to hunt, talk to elders, or enjoy a warm cup of tea next to a fire in a newly built cabin.

For Kauki, the land has always been a place of healing, and where he finds it possible to clear his head.

“I guess the southern way [of relaxing] is going on a beach vacation. Well, this is my beach vacation,” he said.

“This is my Mexico, this is the Inuit way of relaxing.”

May also highlighted three pillars the new Isuarsivik program is based on: harm reduction, a trauma-informed approach, and cultural safety.

“It’s all about reconnecting oneself to one’s family, community and culture,” May said.

She and Kauki are looking ahead to Isuarsivik’s future, and they thank the Arctic Inspiration Prize for making it possible to be better prepared for what’s to come.

“It’s beautiful, I’m happy for our region,” Kauki said.

“The ball is rolling to help Nunavimmiut.”

The Isuarsivik recovery centre in Kuujjuaq, shown here in January 2023. (File photo by Cedric Gallant, special to Nunatsiaq News)

Last year’s Arctic Inspiration Prize was presented in a virtual ceremony, but this year’s will be done in person.

The prize will be awarded Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, in a ceremony co-hosted by Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and Andrea Brazeau.

Several notable speakers will take the stage, including Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok, Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed.

There will also be musical performances from the likes of Beatrice Deer and Terry Uyarak.

Two projects are up for this year’s million-dollar prize.

Kuugalak is a project to build a highly customized language campus in Cambridge Bay, combining indoor and outdoor cultural activity areas, community-designed cultural production equipment and experimental landscaping bridging green energy research with the growing of local plant species for climate adaptation, nutrition and cultural use.

The Pilimmaksaijuliriniq Project is an Inuit Nunangat-wide initiative aimed at suicide prevention.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Far fetched, unattainable, not. on

    One obstacle that people often perceive, which in my opinion is alter perception: is Inuit way vs southern way. In the telling of that difference, is the telling of the altered perception. If people think that southern way to relax is on a beach in Mexico somewhere, vs Inuit way on the land, then someone needs an education in cultural interpretation. Many many people in the south, don’t go to the beach in Mexico. They go to their cottages and cabins out in the country, using cabins has been in their blood long before a cabin was in awareness in Inuit culture. That’s one thing. And another thing is : many many Inuit from Nunavik are at isn’t given time in Mexico or planning some trip to sunny places, as much as any southerner. So get rid of the misinterpretation and be carefully with your views. And good luck.

    • Posted by Agreed so much on

      I had the same thought when I first read this. I don’t think it was malice, but it is indeed a misconception, even a caricature that southerners who need a mental health break enact a ritual like flying away to Mexico or even just going to the beach. The beach is only available for a very short time of year and most southerners can’t afford to fly off to an exotic place to treat their mental health.

      But back to the main point, why the need to always define everything in opposition? Why the need to always try to one up the ‘other’ ? It’s tiring and its boring.

    • Posted by Mountain out of a molehill on

      This really just seems like people are misinterpreting an offhand joke that was made, as a serious statement in which the speaker’s whole worldview is defined by.
      I really don’t think he meant that as broadly as both of the comments are taking it. It was meant to show how relaxing and calming being on the land can be, in a funny way.
      Regardless, its missing the forest for the trees as people fixate on the smallest thing to be negative about rather than look at the positive of the story as a whole… If anyone needs to “be carefully with their views”, its those who miss the point of an article like this, and try to “one up another” by fixating so much on a tiny joke that’s irrelevant to the point overall…

      • Posted by Secrets of a joke on

        Ok, mole in to mountain is common, but when you hear the same mole being turned into the same mountain time and time, I’m not so sure, your interpretation is any better than others. Some moles are loaded with negativity to begin with . Not only Isuarsivik, being a program based on Inuit values and culture, but if some people had their way, the whole health care system would also be based up these values also, and without any significance to well being, other than separating oneself and people from the alien culture, just to do it, not by any positive outcome. This is just another indication that is no good for Inuit and Nunavik, it will prove that in short time down the road.

      • Posted by What’s in a joke anyway? on

        All jokes aside, and the truth is also put aside. Every joke has the truth within, at least most do. Has any other professional employee of isuarsivik anything to tell the public, it seems like too much emphasis is put of the nonprofessional departments, what about the professional researched based, medically platform that isuarsivik has, or hasn’t?

  2. Posted by Married in the sun on

    Talking about sunny places and vacation on the beach. So many Nunavimiut in the last 15 years or so go to these hot places in droves. Marriage takes place there for many Nunavimiut. Like married by the sunny cultures, separated and divorced in the cold culture so to speak, you know what I mean ? I got half dozen friends , yes, From Nunavik who are on a beach at this moment. Many of them don’t even go out on the land any more, just head south, ila George. Now, what if they , the beach goers, say, need to go into Isuarsivik? How would they be associated in a , not wanting to go out to a cabin, just saying ? Or has it been researched and concluded that they are having trouble with addiction because of how they go there, and not go here ?

    • Posted by The sunny beach treatment needs on

      It will not be long now, if people from sunny places keep migrating to Nunavik, that isuarsivik will have no choice but to get new equipment, just to cater to cultural needs of a culture that will be in its element for healing, only on a beach somewhere in Mexico or such warm sunny place.

  3. Posted by Taxpayer on

    Lots of dollars for “on the land equipment”. How can we find out what equipment was purchased and are the treatment centre funds being used for peoples vacations on the land?

  4. Posted by Spend the money on the root cause on

    Isuarsivik will not address the addiction issues of Nunavik. Only a small percentage of people e with a problem will go into treatment to begin with, and that’s the way it always was. How many families do you think, suffering from addiction and social problems are going to end up at Isuarsivik? Kids in a class room setting , spouses awatpy from work place ? Just picture it in your mind! Because it’s only an unrealistic image. Most families with theses problems are already broken, and are in no shape to be united into Isuarsivik. It’s a waste of 40 million dollars and operation cost. The money should be channeled into the community, into families, kids, abusers, elders, etc. Get the values and culture into action before ,not after the affect. The planning, the whole concept is a waste. Deal with Nunaviks root problems in the present. The low percentage of clients will not make any impact on the wellness of the area. That’s it that’s all.

  5. Posted by Any transparency on

    Is there any transparency in the way that money was and is being spent? A million dollars is a lot for equipment for that Center. I’m concerned about everything with isuarsivik.

  6. Posted by Inuit values and culture on

    Material from southern culture used for Inuit culture, yes, materials . But the literature and research being ignored in Inuit values and culture name. I think this only shows the playfulness that been around the Inuit culture for a long time. You do have some people that use Inuit culture that way, just materially objects of another culture. Cabins are another Inuit culture borrowed from other cultures, in the name of tents and snow house igloo. Why not do real Inuit values and culture healing, rather than borrowing what you consider to be playful materials?

  7. Posted by Where is Inuit culture? on

    It’s ok to address Inuit values and culture, but what’s the real goal in doing so ? If someone and organization wants to talk about the Inuit culture, just look around first and absorb the reality. You go to the hospital, it’s other culture that greet you, even far away cultures, talk about sunny places on earth. You encounter the police, another culture. Government officials, other culture. Grocery stores, even those packing the food on shelves, someone from far away culture. Let’s get real here with addressing Inuit culture, get it into the life of today. Or, what you going to do, go out on the land, and live off the million dollar award, then what? I’m telling you now, if Inuit culture is not taken seriously in the communities, it will not survive, the influx of other cultures taken over.

  8. Posted by Inuit of Nunavik culture on

    Nunavik Inuit culture is very different from what some people think it is. Today, it’s coop beer sales, bingo nights combined with screening winners of big ticket items. Guessing games that pot up on the local radios for any occasion several times during the year. 20 dollar prizes. Delinquent kids out all night long stealing and breaking in. Medivac planes and red lights daily, nightly. All in the confines of small communities. Plane loads of chained prisoners off to st Jerome. Court crowd and judges, lawyers dressed in black suits, white shirts and neck ties, taking a few hundred here and there from the repeated offenders. Walking to the court house from their temporary residence of the local hotel. Loads of government officials living and trying to cure the mess with abused kids, women shelters and homes opening to protect people from each other. The violence, the drunks,the drugs. Inuit culture !!! Let’s see you in action isuarsivik.


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