Northern projects net $3.2 million funding boost from Arctic Inspiration Prize

The team behind the Inotsiavik Centre collect their $1 million award at the 2024 Arctic Inspiration Prize. Nicholas Flowers, far right, says the money isn’t for the team “it’s for all Nunatsiavummiutut as a whole.” (Sarah Xenos/CBC)

By Katie Todd · CBC News 

Inotsiavik Centre in Nunatsiavut named as 2024’s $1 million winner

A project to revitalise Inuttitut and promote pride in Inuit identity in northern Labrador has collected the top award from the 12th annual Arctic Inspiration Prize.

At the ceremony in Whitehorse on Tuesday night, judges also endorsed a two-eyed recovery and wellbeing centre, a therapeutic farm school for neurodiverse learners in the Yukon, and an initiative to teach boys and young men traditional fishing skills for Arctic Char in Nunavut, among others.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize website says the awards are Canada’s largest annual prize.

Each year seed funding is offered to new and innovative projects to improve northerners’ lives.

‘For all Nunatsiavummiutut’

This year there were 10 winning teams and a total prize pool of $3.2 million.

The top prize of $1 million went to a project in northern Labrador called the Inotsiavik Centre.

The funding will help Nicholas Flowers and his team to hold cultural workshops and language programming in the Nunatsiavut community of Hopedale.

He said the win had left his team “all absolutely speechless.”

“It’s amazing … it’s incredible on so many different levels,” he said.

“The most important thing we keep in mind is that the $1 million isn’t for us … it’s for all Nunatsiavummiutut as a whole.”

Five other projects walked away from the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre with cheques of up to $500,000.

The 12th annual Arctic Inspiration Prize awards ceremony was held at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Tuesday night. It brought together teams from all across the north. (Sarah Xenos/CBC)

Thay K’i Anint’i was awarded $499,000 to offer recovery and wellness programmes in the Yukon built around Indigenous culture and western practices.

Learning, Harvesting, Earning was awarded $425,000 to help teach boys and young men in Nunavut the traditional skills of fishing for Arctic Char.

Indigenizing Work with Traditional Knowledge and Support Project was awarded $112,000 to support Indigenous employees at Aurora Heat, a sustainable fur business in Fort Smith, N.W.T.

Therapeutic Farm School was awarded $500,000 to help neurodiverse K-12 students learn through experimental means in the Yukon.

Hebron and Nutak Reunions was awarded $298,000 to help able-bodied Inuit return to the communities in Labrador that they were evicted from in the 1950s.

Team member Lena Onalik said she was full of joy and excitement, knowing that the planned trips can now happen in July.

“This has been a long journey. A long road to get to where we are. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and happiness and disappointment along the way. To actually have succeeded in getting the funding, it’s a huge win for us,” she said.

Youth projects

Four youth projects took home close to $100,000 each.

Investing in the Futures of Inuit Women was awarded $98,000 to provide young Inuit mothers and women with employment  and skill-building opportunities.

L.O.V.E. Inuktut was awarded $100,000 to make beginner-level video to revitalize and safeguard 11 dialects of Inuktut.

Youth Coalition 4 Food Security North was awarded $100,000 to support, engage and connect youth in food initiatives across northern Canada.

And the Yukon Young People’s Theatre Festival was awarded $99,000 to hold a three-day event at the Yukon Arts Centre in early 2025.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know at this point there’s nothing stopping this project, than to just do it. So we’ve finally jumped the last real hurdle — besides, you know, work — to making this festival a reality,” said Gabriel Hopkins, a member of Yukon Young People’s Theatre Festival.

“It’s going to be amazing. We’re going to get to extend the loving hand of theatre to all the communities in the Yukon, as well as Atlin and Inuvik.”

Chair of the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust, Wally Schumann said the awards are all about northerners supporting northerners. (Katie Todd/CBC)

Chair of the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust, Wally Schumann, said the awards are all about northerners supporting northerners.

He said the ceremony is the culmination of hours of work for about 260 people.

“People that apply come up with very innovative ideas and every community is different … people in the south generally generalise us into Canada’s North. But when you divide us by regions, and then divide us by communities in these regions, we’re culturally, economically, socially different,” he said.

“It’s community-led, community-driven ideas. And it’s very inspiring — the name [of the prize] fits it right to a tee.”

Founder announces retirement

The Arctic Inspiration Prize was founded by Arnold Witzig, together with his partner Sima Sharifi.

At this year’s ceremony, Witzig announced his retirement.

He would be handing the Arctic Inspiration Prize flag over, to be carried by a new team “all across the North,” he said. 

“Over the last 12 years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and come close to many incredible people across the North … and some even become dear friends,” he said. 

“This is my personal reward that will last.” 

Witzig was given a standing ovation. 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Inuttitut language revitalization campaign underway in Labrador Inuit region, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Everyone encouraged to boost Sami language visibility in Finland, Norway and Sweden this week, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Inuit leaders applaud UN move to designate International Decade of Indigenous Languages, Eye on the Arctic

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