• The team behind the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project celebrates winning the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize at a ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Photo: Arctic Inspiration Prize)

A Yellowknife-based organization that’s establishing an urban land-based healing program for Indigenous people won the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize on Wednesday night in Ottawa.  

“We are so very grateful to the Arctic Inspiration Prize for the opportunity to bring connection and healing back to our communities in the north,” said a post on the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project’s Facebook page after the prize ceremony. “Let the work begin!”

The project targets Inuit, First Nation and Métis men and women on the streets who are at risk of suicide, substance abuse, incarceration and homelessness, and combines Indigenous cultural education with traditional therapeutic interventions in a wilderness urban setting to improve their mental health.

More than $2.4 million was shared among eight teams across the three categories of the prize, which Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi launched in 2012 to recognize, promote and implement knowledge and innovation in the Canadian Arctic. A full description of each winner can be seen here.  

During the event on Wednesday, Witzig and Sharifi announced that they would be donating $60 million to the Arctic Inspiration Prize to ensure its long-term future.

Natan Obed, Canada’s national Inuit leader and president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, applauded the couple’s donation. “We know Northerners have the solutions to improve the quality of life in the Canadian North,” he told the Globe and Mail. “Sima and Arnold's generosity and commitment to the North provides Northerners with financial support they need to implement their innovative projects that benefit northerners and their communities."