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Nunavut projects vie for Arctic Inspiration Prize money

Nunavut is going to either win the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize or have a share of it.

Oona Hipfner, front left, and Jaia Healey-Akearok, front right, are among the youth who have benefitted from the Iqaluit Music Camp’s programs. photo courtesy of Arctic Inspiration Prize

The two finalists for the grand prize, which will be awarded on Feb. 5 in Ottawa, have a footprint in Nunavut.

There’s also a possibility of hundreds of thousands more in funding for Nunavut programs in other categories.

Contending for the $1 million, Imaa, Like This: Children and Youth Expressing Themselves Through Music would build on the Iqaluit Music Camp that has been offered for 25 years. It’s up against Northern Compass, which would create a support network for students as they transition from high school to post-secondary education.

The prize money would allow the music program to become a daily after-school activity instead of only being offered on Saturday afternoons and during the summer through the Iqaluit Music Society. It would expand from fiddle and accordion lessons to throat singing, drum dancing and traditional Inuit songs for children as young as six. Snacks would also be provided.

Naiome Eegeesiak is an instructor and a former music camp student who, as a youth, was introduced to the fiddle by fellow instructor Darlene Nuqingaq.

“I just remember being really proud of myself when I first learned to play the fiddle. I got to show my parents something new,” Eegeesiak recalled, adding that her musical pursuits also enabled her to travel to British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

She’s witnessed the growth of other music camp participants over the years.

“I’ve seen shy kids who won’t leave their mother’s knee gain confidence and perform in front of a crowd,” she said of the power of music and learning.

Nuqingaq said research shows music education helps to stimulate academic success and post-secondary education opportunities.

“We hope to provide supports to improve literacy and numeracy abilities, and promote positive physical and mental health,” Nuqingaq stated. “Winning the prize would be a dream come true.”

Northern Compass oriented to help

Karen Aglukark of Arviat is among the organizers of Northern Compass, who are also hoping to cash in on the big prize money so they can assist high school students in finding their way to colleges, universities or other training programs. Many of the Northern Compass team members, including Aglukark, have a connection with travel program Northern Youth Abroad.

“We find that there’s not a lot of resources that they either know they have access to or that are designed specifically to help them with the barriers that they face,” she explained.

Campus tours would be another component of Northern Compass.

They plan to install mentors who would alert students to training opportunities in the North and the south, create awareness of funding resources specific to Northerners and teach budgeting skills.

There’s also an idea of establishing hubs where Northern students tend to congregate for school such as Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Staff on the ground – known as achievement coaches – would be able to provide direct encouragement.

“It’s difficult to know you’re supported when you’re in a silo as a student… so we want to achieve those local connections when you’re away for school,” said Aglukark, who’s a student at the University of Ottawa studying for a bachelor of arts psychology degree to complement her humanities and political science degree.

Aglukark has already arranged to have a few midterm exams rescheduled so she can attend the Arctic Inspiration Prize awards ceremony.

She’ll be rooting for her aunt Susan Aglukark, whose project the Kamajiit Program, eligible for up to $500,000 in prize money, aims to address high school dropouts and suicide.

“It’s very exciting,” Karen said of the prospect of a win for both initiatives.

The Rideau Hall Foundation oversees the annual Arctic Inspiration Prize, which was conceived by Canadian philanthropists in 2012 to reward Arctic knowledge and innovation.

Fact file
Arctic Inspiration Prize finalists with Nunavut connections

$1-million category

Imaa, Like This: Children and Youth Expressing Themselves Through Music
Team leaders: Naiome Eegeesiak, Darlene Nuqingaq
Geographical scope: Nunavut
This program intends to teach music to Inuit children, mentor Inuit youth musicians to become community music leaders, and train Inuit post-secondary students to be Inuit music educators.

Northern Compass
Team leaders: Karen Aglukark, student, University of Ottawa; Rebecca Bisson, executive director, Northern Youth Abroad; Lois Philipp, founder, Northern Loco; Jim Snider, vice-principal, Elijah Smith Elementary School in Whitehorse
Geographical scope: Nunavut and the Northwest Territories
Northern Compass intends to create pathways relevant to the cultures and contexts of Northern youth enabling them to successfully transition from high school through post-secondary education and on to fulfilling careers.

Up-to-$500,000 category

ᑲᒪᔩᑦ Kamajiit Program
Team leader: Susan Aglukark, writer, developer, and founder Arctic Rose Foundation
Geographical scope: Nunavut
This project proposes to address the root causes of high school drop-out rates and suicide in three communities in Nunavut through a before- and after-school program that would provide youth with access to healthy food, a hands-on creative activity program grounded in Inuit culture and language, and other services.

Nunavut Law Program (NLP)
Team leaders: Stephen Mansell, director, NLP; Aaju Peter, cultural adviser and lecturer, NLP
Geographical scope: Nunavut
The Nunavut Law Program aims to provide a Nunavut-based legal education to Nunavummiut, including a circumpolar exchange

Youth category (up-to-$100,000)

Baffin Youth Outdoor Education Project (BYOE)
Team leader: Brittany Masson, BYOE ambassador
Geographical scope: Nunavut
The Baffin Youth Outdoor Education (BYOE) project aims to foster personal growth, skills development and social and cultural awareness by teaching youth traditional activities and adventures on the land. The initial phase will focus on dog sledding.

Trades of Tradition/Inuit Piqqusingni/Dene K’éé Eghalaets’endedá
Team leaders: Nathan Maniapik, Panniqtuuq Hunting Program coordinator; Sally Paungrat, Qamani’tuaq Hunting Program coordinator
Geographic scope: Nunavut and the Northwest Territories
By providing community members with the opportunity to develop the traditional skills of hunting, sewing, drum-making and drumming, Trades of Tradition intends to preserve traditional knowledge, build connections between youth and elders, strengthen the cultural identities of participants, and address the root causes of prevalent social issues in their communities, including substance abuse and suicide.

Source: Arctic Inspiration Prize