The young hunters program in Arviat was in the spotlight last week during a visit from Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal.

The long-awaited meeting happened after a scheduled trip last summer had to be cancelled and held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The young hunters program is an example of developing Inuit-led solutions to address climate change, food security and community well-being,” Vandal stated. “I want to thank the Aqqiumavvik Society and young hunters for taking the time to show me the excellent work they are doing in their community and talking with me about their experiences.”

Kukik Baker started the young hunters program in 2012 as a way to connect Arviatmiut youth with the rich culture and tradition of surviving on the land.

“The Ujjiqsuiniq program is truly a holistic program that covers all areas in life,” stated Baker. “This is the true intent of the program, to holistically build up our youth immersed in our culture, bringing families together, building skills all to live a good life.”

The Aqqiumavvik Society, which runs the hunters program, is currently responsible for several government-funded initiatives. That includes a $1.23 million top up from from Ottawa — announced in February — to help the program weather the storm of COVID-19.

Baker said the funding has been instrumental to keeping the program going.

“It is very much appreciated and so many lives are forever changed because of it,” she said.

During his Aug. 10 visit, Vandal learned about a variety of the Aqqiumavvik Society’s projects, including its plans for ocean-mapping and net-making workshops.

He also visited the society’s community kitchen project, developed to address food insecurity in the community.

As part of the visit, those involved with the kitchen project made a special pulled duck recipe for the minister.

Shirley Tagalik, chair of the Aqqiumavvik Society, explained that the Ujjiqsuiniq young hunters program is embedded in the Inuit cultural process of inunnguiniq, which translates as “to make a capable human being.”

“Every child is expected to become as skilled and capable as can possibly be so that they can actively contribute those skills to improving the lives of people around them,” she said.

The program strongly supports personal awareness, growth, cultural practices and well-being, according to Tagalik.

“The spin-off is the outcome of engaging youth and community members in the active mitigation of environmental conditions,” she said.

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