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Arctic Inspiration Prize’s $1M goes to Inuit mental wellness project

Representatives of Pilimmaksaijuliriniq collect the Arctic Inspiration Prize in February 2023
Representatives of Pilimmaksaijuliriniq collect the Arctic Inspiration Prize in February 2023. Photo: AIP

A mental health project spanning Inuit Nunangat won the million-dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize on Wednesday, while two other NWT-related projects won $550,000 between them.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize gives several million dollars annually to ideas that aim to advance northern education, health, culture and science. Ordinarily, one project takes the million-dollar grand prize and others receive smaller sums.

At a ceremony in Ottawa, Pilimmaksaijuliriniq – an Inuit-led program to build mental wellness supports across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and other areas – took this year’s main prize.

The Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council has said the project will allow the council to build more mental health supports and traditional Inuit concepts of wellness into its programs.



Kuugalak, a “cultural campus” being developed in Cambridge Bay that formed the other contender for $1 million, missed out.

Lessons from Our Elders, a project led by the Gwich’in Tribal Council’s Sharon Snowshoe, won $450,000. The project plans to help young people across 10 communities visit museums, learn about 3D scanning technology and the creation of digital copies of objects, then interview Elders who can place artifacts in their cultural context – ultimately creating a virtual exhibition.

Inuvialuit Piuyausiq, a youth development program in Tuktoyaktuk ahead of a circumpolar Northern Games celebration in Inuvik, received $100,000.

Non-NWT winners each taking home $500,000 included a Yukon-based project offering “intensive and ongoing aftercare support following attendance at treatment programs” and a project that will help to grow Nunavik’s capacity to manage its own research.



Alongside Tuk’s win in the youth category, there was $100,000 for an Iqaluit youth collective seeking to increase Inuit representation in advertising and other forms of media, and a further $100,000 for a Whitehorse school-based traditional camp.

In all, $2.7 million was awarded on Wednesday. Of the eight shortlisted projects, only losing million-dollar contender Kuugalak received nothing.

In recent years, the Arctic Inspiration Prize has expressed concern that it is struggling to attract enough applications to give away all of the available funding each year, particularly in the youth category.

Organizers said in 2021 they ideally want to fund up to seven youth projects a year, but only two youth applications met that year’s criteria. This year, three youth projects received funding.