NWT project gets $500K as Nunavut educators win Arctic Prize

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Pirurvik, A Place to Grow was awarded $1 million on Tuesday night in Whitehorse – one of two big winners of 2018’s Arctic Inspiration Prize.

“We had a dream to build a high-quality, culturally relevant, early education program for the community of Pond Inlet," said Tessa Lochhead, one of the team leaders for the Pirurvik project, which will provide early childhood education for Nunavummiut in seven Nunavut communities.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm Extended-Season Greenhouse Construction, a Yukon project, received a $500,000 prize immediately doubled by the federal government in a surprise announcement.

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Meanwhile, the NWT's Traditional Techniques Tweaked to Galvanize Indigenous Northern Artisans was awarded $500,000 in the secondary 'AIP' prize category.

In total, 10 shortlisted projects from across the territories were competing for $3 million in prizes.

Only two nominations came from the NWT this year: Northern Compass (one of three finalists for the $1 million prize) and Traditional Techniques Tweaked to Galvanize Indigenous Northern Artisans.

Northern Compass, a pan-territorial project, aimed to improve the prospects of northern youth.

Its vision was to “create practical tools and an innovative support network that address and eliminate the broad spectrum of barriers that youth across all three territories face, while making successful transitions into post-secondary education, careers, and beyond."

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'Honoured and humbled'

In the Arctic Inspiration Prize category, laureates received up to $500,000 for their projects.

The first winner was Nunami Sukuijainiq: A Youth Arctic Ecology Land Camp Program, which provides on-the-land hands-on science eduction for Nunavik youth.

Nunami Sukuijainiq was awarded $466,000 for its initiative.

NWT's own Traditional Techniques Tweaked to Galvanize Indigenous Northern Artisans was also a winner, taking home the full $500,000 and a drum dancer carving.

Traditional Techniques Tweaked plans to improve economic development in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and Gwich’in Settlement Area by creating an association for northern Indigenous artists, supporting them in developing their businesses and products.

“I am most honoured and humbled to accept this award on behalf of the project team," said team member Verna Pope.

"I must say I never thought that I would be standing here before you. As you know, with many of our northern communities, there's often limited economic opportunities.

"However, we are rich with an abundance of Gwich’in and Inuvialuit artisans, many of whom sell their creations to earn a living but face barriers in pursuit of venture creation.

"This wonderful gift will benefit many artisans in the Western Arctic."

Verna Pope accepts a $500,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize on behalf of her team. Arctic Inspiration Prize livestream/Facebook
Verna Pope accepts a $500,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize on behalf of her team. Arctic Inspiration Prize livestream/Facebook

The third and final laureate in this category was Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm Extended-Season Greenhouse Construction, also receiving $500,000 from the AIP.

But in a surprise announcement following the group's win, it was announced the Government of Canada would be matching the prize amount, resulting in not one, but two $1 million prize winners this year.

As its name suggests, the project will address food insecurity by developing a farm that will produce sustainable staples in the Yukon.

The youth laureate, receiving $100,000, was From Scrap to Art, a welding project which teaches youth how to turn scrap metal into art in Cambridge Bay.

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