Nunavik addictions treatment project wins $1M Arctic Inspiration Prize

Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut will aim to heal through Inuit values

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

By David Lochead

An addictions project in Nunavik that emphasizes Inuit values and culture has won the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize. The news was announced on the prize’s annual awards show Friday night.

“We’re really grateful,” said Sarah May, one of the project’s co-leaders.

“We realize the impact this [prize] will have on the guests that will come to get healing.”

The project, called Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut, will be run through the new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre, based in Kuujjuaq.

It will work to address the root causes of addictions through Inuit culture and values by bringing together elders, counsellors, hunters, scholars and community members.

This is the second time Isuarsivik has entered its project to win an Arctic Inspiration Prize, which helps enable the initiatives of people in the North. The prize is owned by a trust that includes Indigenous organizations, governments and other partners. This year it awarded $3 million to eight teams across the North.

Addiction is a major social issue in the region, and substance abuse is one of the leading reasons for incarceration in the North, said George Kauki, who co-leads the project.

“We have to tackle it somehow,” he said.

Instead of counselling that is based indoors, Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut, which means “family at the heart of the healing process,” involves going out on the land and including family in therapy.

Along with family, a collection of community members that include hunters and scholars will participate, Kauki said, adding he was trying to assemble a “dream team” of people to work in the project.

“It’s a program made by Inuit for Inuit,” he said.

The project is specifically geared toward helping families, which is why it will launch when Isuarsivik opens its new facility. Isuarsivik’s new facility will include 22-units for families to attend as well as space for daycare. Right now, a project like Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut cannot operate because Isuarsivik’s current facility only has enough space to offer counselling for nine people at a time, Isuarsivik’s communication coordinator Marie-Helene Caron said. Kauki added the summer of 2023 is the goal to have the new facility ready, Kauki said.

Kauki said the funding will help Isuarsivik hire more staff to work on the project, as well as provide equipment, such as snowmobiles, to help get people on the land.

“It’s going to help us so much,” Kauki said of the award.

With the goal of to have the project ready in just over a year and a lot of work being done to reach that deadline, the funding came at the right time, May said.

“A lot of amazing things are going to happen for a lot of amazing people,” she said.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by To honour our ancestors on

    I can see more cold dog sled trips up the koksoak and back. Good food for the dogs, no more straps, and bacon and eggs for breakfast for the musher. No more bannock and tea. Oh, I’m sure the participant will inform the news stations themselves, to get their reward of being recognition. Look what I did dear ancestors. And I told everyone.

  2. Posted by Congratulations! on

    Thank you George and Sarah for being part of the solution and leading the way to positive change. Very inspiring work happening at Isuarsivik. So much hope for families and individuals looking to improve their lives. Keep up the great work!

  3. Posted by Damn the addiction on

    Nice to see someone working on confronting the ever growing addiction problems in the region. At least someone is pushing back against the useless / heartless speed and cocaine dealers. Great initiative.

  4. Posted by S on

    Hey, a million bucks; that can be useful funding. whether it helps with the building construction, buying snowmobiles or paying salaries. Shame it’ll be sitting in trust for another eighteen months.
    I’m curious what the author has identified as the root causes of addictions and how those specific causes can be removed or overcome “through Inuit culture and values by bringing together elders, counsellors, hunters, scholars and community members.”
    What about the physiological factors that determine alcoholism? Will they be incorporated in recovery; and addressed through “..Inuit culture and values”?
    Is total abstinence a goal? the goal? What are the measurable outcomes of the recovery programs?

    • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

      I m so happy , that their will be no more drunks neglecting work or their kids. Nunavik strong

      • Posted by They all be on the land on

        They’ll be on the land. No more rush and lineups at the coop store for beer and wine. No more drunk drivers. Police will have to lay off officers, not enough work, almost zero crime. Kids will be happy again, DYP won’t be needed.

        • Posted by Kinngait on

          The rankin healing facility has a really good addictions program. I took it couple times in jail. We would read bible and pray a lot and ask jesus to make us be less addicted. You could try this one to.

  5. Posted by Caution to inuit on

    A treatment program based on Inuit values and culture. This has multiple faces of concern. First who are the qualified person to take this very serious addiction and applied these values and culture? What are the qualifications of the said persons? It’s not just good enough to have Inuit workers at Isuarsivik playing around with people’s lives this way, if these Inuit are not qualified and educated with councillor background, social background, psychology , and other such necessities to approach the lives of this illness, this should be setting off alarm bells. Just because they are Inuit , it’s not a qualification without the education. This is dangerous. And really, what do these other person, elders and hunters know about this illness and treatment? It’s synonymous as taking people with other illnesses on the land. Or, are the professional councillors going to go out on the land as well to impediment this program. And what about that 40 million dollar building? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, according to this idea, that a cabin , or a few cabins be put out on the land, or they live in tents for 6 weeks. This is very concerning and I feel bad for those who will be in this trying to get well.

  6. Posted by Who and what? on

    Reading this article is reading nothing new about Isuarsivik. The Struggle goes on in looking for solutions. As soon as somebody or something pops up, it’s grab and go, oh we got the answer. I think it’s never been ready discussed, and asked: what can we do? Why are we not having a good outcome. I think the board of directors sit down, once in a while to discuss everything but the real issues. Like everything is fine, we got a million dollars, we got a 40 million dollar building, everything is fine. But everything is not fine. These people that they are trying to involve, who are they? Elders, community members, hunters scholars? There’s a continuous hiring and lots of turn over, who is who, is interesting, with what credentials?

    • Posted by 867 on

      Ikaluktuutiak’s “28-day on the land” program is quite the same. Group of people with addictions being thrown into a 28-day program led by elders, hunters, community members, etc… It is not uncommon to see someone finish the program and then go right back to their old habits almost instantly after getting out.

      Without qualified addictions counselors and expert staff on hand, the idea that reconnecting oneself with the land will cure the underlying issues that cause addiction is a bit farfetched. The idea that elders and hunters possess an intrinsic ability to help with sobriety is worrisome, as people are suffering and need help. Throwing money at programs is great, but more often than not these programs do not have the needed foundations to ensure long -term success.

  7. Posted by Frank Sterle Jr. on

    I used to be one of those who, while sympathetic, would look down on those who’d ‘allowed’ themselves to become addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs. Yet, though I have not been personally affected by the opioid addiction/overdose crisis, I myself have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known, enjoyed and appreciated the great release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC.

    Emotional and/or psychological trauma from unhindered toxic abuse, sexual or otherwise, usually results in a helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it can act as a starting point into a life in which the brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It’s like a form of non-physical-impact brain damage.

    The lasting mental pain is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head. It is solitarily suffered, unlike an openly visible physical disability or condition, which tends to elicit sympathy/empathy from others. It can make every day a mental ordeal, unless the turmoil is treated with some form of medicating, either prescribed or illicit.

  8. Posted by Frank Sterle Jr. on

    It is astonishingly atrocious that such a large number of human beings, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to otherwise free, democratic and relatively civilized nations. One can observe this with the many Canadian indigenous children having been buried in unmarked graves.

    When those people take note of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin subconsciously perceiving themselves as beings without value.

    Though perhaps subconsciously, a somewhat similar inhuman(e) devaluation is observable in external attitudes toward the daily civilian lives lost in protractedly devastating war zones and famine-stricken nations; the worth of such life will be measured by its overabundance and/or the protracted conditions under which it suffers. Thus, those people can eventually receive meagre column inches on the back page of the First World’s daily news.


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