• Members of the Pirurvik project accepting their award

    Representatives from the Pirurvik - A Place to Grow project accept their $1-million prize at the award ceremony in Whitehorse on Feb. 12. (Photo: Arctic Inspiration Prize)

Traditional Inuit practices for early childhood education in seven Nunavut communities; a land-based science education program for Nunavik youth; a cold-climate greenhouse to grow fresh produce and other food staples in the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in ttraditional territory and Settlement Lands; an association of Northern Indigenous artists and crafters; and a studio that teaches young Northerners welding skills, allowing them to express themselves through art. These programs were awarded a total of $2,566,000 at the 2018 Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony in Whitehorse on Feb. 12. Founded in 2012, the Arctic Inspiration Prize awards up to $3 million annually to projects that foster and implement northern knowledge and celebrates the North’s achievements and ingenuity. The five laureates "are outstanding examples of northern teams with innovative ideas that will have lasting impacts in their communities and beyond," said Jason Annahatak, Chair of the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust. "Their projects embody the true spirit of the Arctic Inspiration Prize and will undoubtedly advance the wellbeing and quality of life across Canada's North."

Learn more about the 2018 winners below.

$1 million category

Pirurvik - A Place to Grow: Early Childhood Education for Nunavummiut

The Pirurvik Preschool in Pond Inlet provides early childhood education that is rooted in the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge) principal of Pilimmaksarniq, which is a traditional practice of allowing children to learn at their own pace. Children are allowed to follow their own natural curiosity by choosing topics that interest them. Pirurvik - A Place to Grow aims to change the lives of children throughout Nunavut by developing innovative and comprehensive ECE programs that are rooted in Inunnguiniq (the process of making capable and contributing human beings) and in traditional child-rearing practices, and that are responsive to the needs of each community. The goal is to augment current programming for infants and toddlers in seven communities that span all three regions of Nunavut. The model could eventually be replicated throughout the territory.

AIP category (up to $500,000)

Nunami Sukuijainiq: A Youth Arctic Ecology Land Camp Program ($466,000)

Nunami Sukuijainiq is a land-based and hands-on science education program designed for Nunavik youth. Youth from all Inuit communities in Nunavik will have the opportunity to participate in Arctic ecology land camps, which focus on marine and freshwater edible resources, hydrology, entomology, contaminants, permafrost and the ecology of lakes, plants and Arctic char in rapidly changing northern environments. The project will also provide mentoring opportunities for Inuit youth already enrolled in post-secondary science programs across Inuit Nunangat. To inspire other Arctic communities and regions, short documentary films will be produced during the ecology land camps. With the participation of Elders, local experts and researchers, Nunami Sukuijainiq will nurture an interest in science among Inuit youth and help them to develop valuable skills as future environmental leaders in Nunavik.

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Teaching and Working Farm Extended-Season Greenhouse Construction ($500,000)

Indigenous households across Canada experience food insecurity at a rate nearly twice that of non-Indigenous households. To help address this issue locally, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (TH) partnered with Yukon College to create a farm capable of growing fresh produce and other food staples in a sustainable way within TH traditional territory and Settlement Lands. Currently, the northern growing season is constrained to a five­-month period from May to September. The AIP funding will help the farm to construct an extended-season cold-climate greenhouse, the first of its kind in the Yukon, that would transform the farm into an operation capable of sustaining local production and providing experiential learning opportunities for up to 10 months of the year, including during some of the coldest periods of winter. The final design could also be deployable to other Yukon First Nations and northern communities seeking to implement localized solutions to food security challenges.

Traditional Techniques Tweaked to Galvanize Indigenous Northern Artisans ($500,000)

In an effort to address limited opportunities for economic development in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and the Gwich'in Settlement Area, this project will create an association of Northern Indigenous artists and crafters across the region to work at developing sustainable business ventures, improving local artisans' skills, ensuring authentic, high quality products, and building confidence. The hoped-for result: an Indigenous-owned and operated venture with self-determined, quality products, prices, and markets that will support sustainable and culturally valuable lifestyles.

Youth category (up to $100,000)

From Scrap to Art ($100,000)

No longer mentored as hunters due to intergenerational trauma, at-risk youth often feel they cannot contribute and become valued community members. Suicide, violence, drugs, alcohol and vandalism can send youths and communities into downward spirals. From Scrap to Art aims to capture the innate creative brilliance of the youth of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to help them forge intergenerational connections, develop practical and artistic skills, and confidently approach their futures with goals and a sense of identity, while strengthening community wellness and pride. Under the guidance of Inuit and Maori mentors and Northern educators, the youth team will develop teaching materials, and set up a dedicated welding studio. Through the project, youth will have the opportunity to develop and express themselves through art, while helping the environment by recycling materials abandoned in landfills.

Related: See past winners of the Arctic Inspiration Prize