Since 2012, the Arctic Inspiration prize—a sum of money ranging from hundreds of thousands to a million dollars—has been presented to groups who have a concrete plan to use knowledge they’ve gathered in the North to benefit the people of the North.
Past winners have included: FOXY, an NWT-based group that works with youth to promote mental and sexual health and positive relationships; and SmartICE, a system of tracking and educating people on ice conditions using input from the community, as well as government and industry; among many other recipients within a range of disciplines.
This year, eight groups shared $2.4 million but the big winner was the trust itself. Founders Sima Sharifi and Arnold Witzig, donated $60 million—which will keep the prizes flowing for years to come.
“It is our dream and hope that the prize will create an ever-growing network of individuals and organizations from the North and the South with compassion for the North,” Sharifi stated in a news release.
$1 million: Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project
This healing program, based in Yellowknife, will support at-risk Inuit, First Nation and Métis people with traditional medicine and culturally specific community programs. Team leader Dr. Nicole Redvers says the team of Elders and traditional knowledge holders will provide services to men and women who are “often left out of conventional support services,” especially the homeless population.
$500,000: Unaaq Men’s Association of Inukjuak
The Unaaq Men’s Association took home one of three $500,000 prizes for its intensive Traditional Program Development that provides support for elders and experienced hunters to share their traditional knowledge with youth across Nunavik. The project aims to strengthen intergenerational bonds and build self-esteem, leadership and pride with the hope of tackling social issues and providing economic opportunities with traditional activities.
$500,000: Our Families, Our Way: The Peacemaking Circle
Based in the Yukon, this program aims to bring back peacemaking circles as a way of dealing with trauma and overcoming challenges. The overall goal is to create healthy communities to raise healthy children.
$140,000: The Qajaq Program
Based in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, this program gets elders and youth on the water, teaching them to build and paddle their own qajaq based on designs used in the area hundreds of years ago. Youth will also create a special qajaq that can be shipped to other communities to help spread knowledge that is fading through generations.
$100,000: Dene Heroes Publication Project
This team of youth from Colville Lake, NWT aims to foster literacy and leadership skills by working collaboratively with Indigenous youth to write stories, take photos and draw illustrations of their heroes and people they admire of Dene descent. The works will be put together in a book and distributed throughout the Sahtu and other regions.
$100,000: Rivers to Ridges
This project will open a forest school in Whitehorse, starting with a preschool program to help kids develop a relationship with the land. The school will integrate First Nations knowledge and teachings through elders and train new teachers and mentors in land-based education.
$80,000: Rankin Rock Hockey Camp
Kids in Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat, Nunavut will keep their sticks on the ice with a camp aimed at training youth to become coaches and leaders. Participants will develop their hockey skills for the upcoming season but also work on developing habits around personal wellness, self-confidence and goal-setting skills.
$20,000: North in Focus: Nunavut, Our Land, Our People
The group will use its winnings to grow its team that facilitates mental health workshops for Nunavummiut, connects youth with mental health resources and works to break down the stigmas associated with mental illness.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!