8 teams split 2019 $2.6M Arctic Inspiration Prize
Nunavut- and N.W.T.-based Northern Compass comes out on top
A program that helps northern youth in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories succeed in university and college life has won the Arctic Inspiration Prize's top award — $1 million.
Northern Compass collected the big payout in Ottawa on Wednesday night. The Arctic Inspiration Prize is an annual award that provides funding for innovative projects in the north.
With the money in hand, one of the Northern Compass team leaders Karen Aglukark said she hopes the lasting legacy of the program will be to make college and university degrees an ordinary event for northerners.
"I tell people that I am in university — everyone is very proud and excited, and it is a big deal, and it is exceptional and outstanding," Aglukark, a student at the University of Ottawa, said.
"I don't want that to be the case. I want it to be that any high school student in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories thinks, 'I can go become a doctor if I wanted to. It's normal.'"
Northern Compass aspires to help more youth in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories feel confident and supported as they transition from high school to post-secondary school.
Fellow team leader, Rebecca Bisson, said northern youth face a range of challenges when they leave smaller communities and move to big cities. Aside from homesickness, campuses and big cities sometimes overwhelm students who move from the North. Bisson remembers picking up a student from Yellowknife and dropping them off at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
"We arrived at a residence room, with no sheets on the bed, no towels and no food at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night," Bisson said. "And I thought, if this was me I would book my flight home, immediately."
Helping Yukon firefighters battle trauma
While Northern Compass doesn't serve youth in Yukon, the territory didn't leave Wednesday night empty-handed.
Yukon's Resilience Training and Healing Program received $410,000. Chad Thomas, team leader for the project, said the money would create preventative and healing programs among youth and wildland firefighters as they respond to hazardous incidents like wildfires, floods and search and rescue.
"That takes a toll on all of our firefighters," Thomas said. "They see traumatic events. So we need to be helping them along their path. We need to be giving them traditional healing methods, not just Western healing methods."
The Arctic Inspiration Prize bills itself as the largest annual prize for northerners, awarding up to $3 million. Typically, one organization wins $1 million, and then several other prizes up to $500,000 and $100,000 are doled out each year.
Here are 2019's other winners:
Laureate catergory winners
- With the help of $450,00, the ᑲᒪᔩᑦ Kamajiit will tackle high school dropouts and suicide in Nunavut communities.
- Dehcho: River Journey's, which walked away with $370,000, will use elders, archival material to create a multimedia project that will showcase a century worth of changes along the Mackenzie River: from the Dehcho down to the Beaufort Delta.
- The Nunavut Law Program won $140,000 to provide a "Nunavut-based legal education to Nunavummiut," a news release said.
Youth catergory winners
- The Baffin Youth Outdoor Education teaches youth traditional activities and takes them on adventures on the land, including dog sledding.
- Trades Tradition preserves and develops skills such as hunting, sewing, drum-making, and drumming within Pangnirtung, Nunavut.
- The Yukon Youth Healthcare Summit aim is simple — get more Indigenous youth to post-secondary school and particularly to become nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.
- A previous version of this story described Northern Compass as the winners of the 2020 Arctic Inspiration Prize. In fact, they were the winners of the 2019 prize.Nov 20, 2020 11:18 AM CT