From Inuit-led addictions treatment to justice and leadership centre: Finalists revealed in $1M prize

The Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP) announced its list of finalists for this year, which awards teams in the North working on "innovative" projects.

Finalists for 2020 Arctic Inspiration Prize were also announced for the $500k and $100K categories

Northern Compass, the 2019 winners of the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize, accept their cheque in Ottawa in Feb 2020. (David Thurton/CBC)

Darlene Nuqingaq is hoping to run a daily after-school music program for youth based in Iqaluit, and now she's a bit closer to that dream.

The project Nuqingaq helps work on is among the finalists for the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP). Her project, with the help of Naiome Eegeesiak, aims to employ and mentor Inuit youth as music instructors and mentor Inuit youth musicians to become community music leaders, according to a news release from AIP.

The project also intends to provide professional development for Nunavut educators and post-secondary students to include traditional Inuktut music into their programs.

Each year, AIP awards teams in the North working on "innovative" projects in the fields of education, sustainable housing, health, performing arts, traditional knowledge, language and science, according to a news release issued Friday.

There is one prize worth $1 million along with up to four prizes of a maximum of $500,000 each, and up to seven youth prizes of up to $100,000 each.

For Nuqingaq, the president of Iqaluit Music Society and the founder of the Iqaluit Fiddle Club, it would be a chance to add more culturally relevant music opportunities for youth across Nunavut.

Those programs could include Inuit drum dancing, which gives children a sense of beat and rhythm in their body, she said. Throat singing — the body's "natural instrument" — and traditional Inuit songs for children would also be included.

"I've seen firsthand the power of music education to enhance literacy programs," she said, adding it "would be great to have a Nunavut-based music education program."

Young fiddlers jamming on the tundra to give a video thank-you card to donors in July. (Submitted by Darlene Nuqingaq)

"As we've seen over and over in the Iqaluit Music Society's 25-year history … music builds resilience and provides hope," Nuqingaq said, adding it also is a natural way to build leadership skills and helps grow people's confidence.

"Music has the power to move you from feeling sad to feeling happy," she said. "I think, especially during these uncertain times of COVID[-19] we need symbols of hope."

'Goosebumps' about potential 

The Liard Aboriginal Women's Society is also up for the $1-million award through its Northern Centre for Justice, Dignity and Leadership program. 

It's a proposal for a virtual hub grounded in Indigenous knowledge for those harmed by violence in the Yukon, particularly Indigenous women and girls, explained Ann Maje Raider, the society's executive director. 

"It was so exciting, like 'oh my God,' that's all I can say," Raider said. "It's so exciting, about the work, the potential, I see so much potential for this project. I get goosebumps about the potential." 

From left to right: Mary Charlie, Mary Maje, Dorothy Smith, and Ann Maje Raider. Raider said she has 'goosebumps' about the potential of a virtual anti-violence program up for the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize. (Submitted by Ann Maje Raider )

This project came out of COVID-19 and the difficulty ongoing restrictions have on holding traditional in-person workshops, Raider explained. 

"The only way to reach people now is through online training, and this training is so important," she said, pointing to the North's high rates of violence and promising to take a holistic approach to addressing that violence. 

Here's a full list of the finalists

The AIP is owned and governed by the northern-led AIP Charitable Trust. It's supported by Indigenous organizations, governments, industry, philanthropy, and "many other partners from the North and South," according to the organization. It's management support is provided by the Rideau Hall Foundation.

The $1 million finalists are:

  • Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut. The team leader is Jessica Tooma, coordinator of the Inuit Values and Practices Department, Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Center in Kuujjuaq, Que.
  • "Imaa, Like this": Children and Youth Expressing Themselves Through Music. The team leaders are Naiome Eegeesiak and Darlene Nuqingaq. The project is based in Nunavut.
  • Northern Centre for Justice, Dignity and Leadership. The team is led by Ann Maje Raider, executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women's Society in Yukon.

The $500,000 finalists are:

  • Dene Ahthít'e: Rebuilding the Indigenous Economy in the Dehcho. The team leaders are Herb Norwegian, chair of Edéhzhíe Management Board in the Northwest Territories. Niqihaqut, led by Jimmy Oleekatalik, manager of Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization. The project is based in Nunavut.
  • Tusaajuit, led by Tunu Napartuk, director of Complementary and Compassionate Services, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, and its project scope is within Nunavik.
  • The First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun's Indigenous Food Sovereignty Hub. The team leader is Sonny Gray, owner and CEO of North Star Agriculture in Yukon.
  • Youth Training in Ethical Knowledge Sharing and Co-production to Advance Northern, Indigenous-led Conservation and Stewardship. The team leader is Norma Kassi, co-research director at the Canadian Mountain Network. The project's scope is in Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunatsiavut.

The $100,000 finalists are:

  • Artspace, led by Cat McGurk, president of Makerspace Yellowknife.
  • Western Arctic Youth Collective led by Alyssa Carpenter, co-founder and project director. The project scope is in the N.W.T. Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

There will be three regional selection committees for Yukon, the N.W.T. and Inuit Nunangat (the homeland of the Inuit in Canada), made up of Northerners "representing diverse sectors and communities, reviewed and selected nominations from their regions," the release says.

The committee recommendations will go to the AIP's National Selection Committee, who will select and announce the Laureates at the AIP's 9th Annual Awards Ceremony, set to be broadcast across Canada in February 2021.

With files from Anna Desmarais and Avery Zingel