Nunavut group wins million-dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize

Ilitaqsiniq literacy council’s Pilimmaksaijuliriniq Project honoured with top prize

Adriana Kusugak, right, executive director of the Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council, shares a hug with Aliisa Autut, the organization’s finance director and other members of their team, after the organization received the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize’s grand prize Wednesday night. The annual awards that provide $3 million to projects that advance community well-being in the North were handed out at a ceremony in Ottawa. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated Feb. 13 at 11:55 a.m.

Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council’s Pilimmaksaijuliriniq Project, which aims to provide access to traditional mental wellness tools, has been named the winner of this year’s $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The prize, awarded annually, was presented Wednesday evening in Ottawa during the Northern Lights Conference.

On hearing their names called, the recipients shared hugs as they walked to the stage.

“Somebody had to cry tonight,” said Adriana Kusugak, Ilitaqsiniq’s executive director.

“You saw our potential and you believed in us,” she said, thanking her nominators.

Kusugak also took time to recognize her colleagues on stage.

“To the core of my heart, I love you guys,” she said. “We are excited to bring this project across Inuit Nunangat and to the three regions of Nunavut.”

The Arctic Inspiration Prize bills itself as the largest annual prize in Canada. It has awarded up to $3.7 million to innovative projects across the North every year for the past 12 years.

Wally Schumann, chairperson of the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust, said of the main prize nominees, “Their projects are outstanding examples of people from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise coming together to use their skills and knowledge to bring about the change they want to see for their communities.”

Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council’s project was selected for the million-dollar prize over a Cambridge Bay project called Kuugalak, a cultural workspace, a project of the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay.

In total, $2.7 million in prizes was awarded at the ceremony Wednesday.

A Northwest Territories-based elders teaching program received $450,000, a Yukon-based recovery program got $500,000, and the Nunavik-based Atanniuvik research governance initiative was awarded $500,000.

The Nunavut Youth Creative Collective earned one of three $100,000 prizes in the youth category. The other two youth prize recipients were a Whitehorse school’s camp building activity and an Inuvik recreation program.

“This nomination alone raised awareness of our vision of the Arctic,” said Mac Pavia, one of the members of the Nunavut Youth Creative Collective.

“This win will allow us to transform our vision into an achievable goal.”

In addition to the prizes, the evening was filled with cultural celebrations of the North, followed by a reception for attendees.

The ceremony was co-hosted by artists Andrea Brazeau and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, and featured performances by Vision Quest, Beatrice Deer, and Terry Uyarak.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mac Pavia’s last name.


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