Three Nunavut projects received recognition and funding from a total of $2.4 million that went to eight teams across the North at the Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony Jan. 31 in Ottawa.
“We’re super-excited,” said Chesterfield Inlet’s Glen Brocklebank, who has been running a qajaq program with Victor Sammurtok School students for years.
Together with Louie Autut, Leila Paugh Kevin Issaluk, Simon Aggark, Ana Leishman and Jolene Ippiak, Brocklebank submitted the Qajaq Program, and the team was awarded $140,000.
“What does it mean? We started building qajaqs in 2004, and since 2004 we’ve gotten just under $110,000 in funding. That’s over 14 years. So in a single shot we got more than we’ve gotten since we started. It means everything.”
Everything means building 30 new qajaqs based on the style of qajaq that would have originally been paddled in the Chesterfield Inlet area.
“We’re going to bring back qajaqs that would have been on the shore, that would have been paddled by Inuit. That’s the goal. And at the same time, we’ll have equipment that no longer lets in cold ocean water,” said Brocklebank.
“Our students are very good with the equipment but things over time break down. It is the Arctic. Half of our qajaqs leak, most of our suits leak,” noting the prize will “keep us safe and going a lot longer than another decade.”
Knowledge-keepers and elders will teach youth how to build and paddle their own qajaqs. The program will also create a special qajaq that can be shipped to other communities as a teaching resource to show how qajaq-making comes together.
Rankin Inlet’s recreation director David Clark’s Rankin Rock Hockey Camp walked away with $80,000 for a project to develop youth leadership capacity and promote healthy active lifestyles in Rankin, Baker Lake and Arviat.
Clark could not be reached for comment, but on Facebook he said, “To my town and Kivalliq I look forward to bring bigger and better hockey camps to you. I am truly thankful.”
North in Focus, a small group of university students that includes Ashley Cummings of Pangnirtung, received $20,000 in seed money to develop a larger submission called Nunavut, Our Land, Our People.
“Wow. It was surreal,” said Cummings about the evening, and hearing her team’s project had made the cut.
“I can’t express in words how amazing it feels to know people support us and people believe in us, and believe what we want to do for the North as a whole, but also for Nunavummiut with this specific project.”
The team of Cummings, Melynda Ehaloak, and Eva Wu will use the money to build capacity to create toolkits for mental health, suicide reduction and stigma reduction.
“We really want this program to be set apart from others, because it’s for youth, by youth. They will be toolkits that are sustainable and personal for each community for decades to come across Nunavut,” said Cummings.
The $1 million prize went to the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project for a land-based healing program that hopes to improve the health of at-risk Inuit, First Nation and Metis peoples in Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories.
The event, which is celebratory to begin with, topped all expectations when the wife and husband team of Sima Sharifi and Arnold Witzig, who launched the annual prize in 2012, also announced at the ceremony that they are giving a further $60 million to the organization.
“Sima and Arnold’s gift to Northerners undoubtedly secures the long-term future of the Arctic Inspiration Prize. It means as Northerners, we can count on even more support for our own ideas to help improve our communities. This gift is an enormous acknowledgement that we have our own solutions worthy of support and that truly work for our people and communities,” said Arctic Inspiration Prize executive director Kevin Kablutsiak.