• Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project, indigenous, suicide prevention, homelessness, therapy, education

    Members of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project, winners of the $1-million 2017 Arctic Inspiration Prize. (Photo: Arctic Inspiration Prize/Patrick Doyle)

Canadian immigrants Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi founded the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2012 to celebrate the North’s achievements and ingenuity. The organization awards up to $3 million annually to projects that foster and implement northern knowledge, and on Feb. 12, 2019, the winners of the 2018 Arctic Inspiration Prize will be announced at an award ceremony in Whitehorse. From traditional food networks to youth literacy initiatives, here’s a look at some of the past grand-prize winners.

The Arctic Food Network 

2012 winner

Team members: Lucassie Arragutainaq, Bert Dean, Alan Everard, James Ford, Morgan Ip, Jack Kabvitok, Lola Sheppard, Mason White (team leader)

Country foods are important to the physical, mental, social and economic health of Arctic peoples and communities. The Arctic Food Network won the $1-million prize (shared with three other teams) to help develop its network of cabins, sheds and other supporting infrastructure to strengthen traditions of hunting and sharing food in northern communities. The network will lead to the acquisition, storage, preparation, distribution and celebration of country food, and other locally-sourced food.

The Nunavut Literacy Council 

2012 winner

Team members: Cayla Chenier, Kim Crockatt (team leader), Graeme Dargo, George Dunkerley, Sue Folinsbee, Brendan Griebel, Adriana Kusugak, Pujjuut Kusugak, Quluaq Pilakapsi, Shelley Tulloch, Gloria Uluqsi, Anna Ziegler

The social and economic costs of low literacy are monumental. In Nunavut, low literacy rates result in nearly half of the working-age population struggling with serious challenges and lacking the literacy skills needed to thrive in today’s society. The Nunavut Literacy Council won the $1-million prize (shared with three other teams) for their knowledge-to-action plan to embed literacy into high-quality, culturally-based programming for the benefit of individuals, families and communities across the North.

The Thaidene Nëné Initiative

2012 winner

Team members: Deneen Allen, Stephen Ellis, Dora Enzoe (team leader), Gloria Enzoe, Mike Filipowitsch, Larry Innes, Erica Janes, Steven Nitah, Mike Palmer, Francois Paulette, Council of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Thaidene Nëné Negotiations Advisory Committee

For over 40 years the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, a small Chipewyan community of just over 300 people located on the south shore of Great Slave Lake in Northwest Territories, has been advancing an initiative to protect a more than 30,000-square-kilometre area of their homeland called Thaidene Nëné, the “Land of the Ancestors.” The Thaidene Nëné Initiative received the $1-million prize (shared with three other teams) to contribute to the stewardship, protection and co-management of the proposed national park reserve.

The National Strategy on Inuit Education – National Parent Mobilization Initiative

2013 winner

Team members: Peter Geikie, Kevin Kablutsiak, Heather Ochalski, Mary Simon (team leader).

Low school attendance is a serious problem in Inuit communities across Canada. Involving parents and caregivers in their children’s education and confidently engaging them in the school system is critical to improving education outcomes in the North. The National Committee on Inuit Education and the Amaujaq National Centre for Inuit Education received the $1-million prize (shared with two other teams) for their plan to mobilize parents through media support, regional roundtables and conferences, community-targeted initiatives and the creation of parent toolkits with tips on how parents can support their children’s education.

SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: Healthy homes in thriving Nunatsiavut communities 

2013 winner

Team members: Tony Andersen, Dorothy Angnatok, Trevor Bell, Christina Goldhar, Isabella Pain (team leader), Carla Pamak, Dan Pottle, Tom Sheldon, Darryl Shiwak, Katie Winters.

Access to culturally suitable and environmentally adapted housing is one of the most important issues facing Northerners across Canada, and particularly in the Nunatsiavut region of northern Labrador. SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik received the $1-million prize (shared with two other teams) for their plan to use local Inuit knowledge, professional assessments and literature reviews to build and monitor Nunatsiavut’s first sustainable, multi-unit residential dwelling and establish a prototype for Northern housing development that addresses the changing northern climate, infrastructure requirements and Inuit housing needs.

FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth)

2014 winner

Team members: Jane Dragon, Jeremy Emerson, Gwen Healey, Veronica Johnny, Carmen Logie, Candice Lys (team leader), Kayley Mackay, Nancy MacNeill, Graeme Peters, Teresa Watson, Makenzie Zouboules.

The sexual health of Northern youth is a serious public health concern, with extremely high rates of sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy and sexual violence across the territories. Working with an exceptional team of youth, Elders, educators, community-based researchers and artists, FOXY received $1 million for their plan to acknowledge and address the complex determinants of sexual health through school-based workshops, peer leadership retreats and more. 

Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project

2017 winner

Team Members: Be'sha Blondin, Jean Cardinal, Edna Elias, William Greenland, Rassi Nashalik, Donald Prince, Dr. Nicole Redvers (team leader), Magnolia A. R. Unka-Wool

Indigenous populations, compared to their non-Indigenous peers, are at higher risk for suicide, substance abuse, incarceration and homelessness — more than 90 per cent of the homeless population in the Northwest Territories is Indigenous. The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project received the $1 million prize for their plan to combine Indigenous cultural education with traditional therapeutic interventions in an urban setting, with the goal of improving the mental health of at-risk Indigenous Peoples.

with files from the Arctic Inspiration Prize