'It all starts with a dream': Nunavut's AIP winner


Interviews with Aneeka Anderson of Investing in the Futures of Inuit Women and Sam Arfin of Learning, Harvesting, Earning – the Nunavut winners of the 2024 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The real winner of this year's Arctic Inspiration Prize is the evolving structure of Nunavut's infrastructure.

Four projects, two of which were located exclusively on the territory and at opposite ends of the traditional gender work spectrum, resulted in a total of $1,246,000 in prize money from Canada's largest competition, which will directly benefit Nunavummiut in many ways, especially food sovereignty and job training.

Nunavut News spoke with the exclusively Nunavut-based projects Learning, Harvesting, Earning, which won $425,000 at the AIP category finalist level, and Investing in the Futures of Inuit Women, an initiative of non-profit organization One Plane Away, which won the Prize received around $98,000 in the youth category – via her plan for winning.

“The ceremony was incredible,” said Aneeka Anderson, team leader of Investing in the Futures of Inuit Women. “Sylvia Coutier was the artistic director, so there were a lot of great performances, a lot of Inuit represented, which was great to see, as well as some local First Nations representatives – singing and dancing and speakers – just incredible. “Really just life-changing and impactful.”

Sam Arfin: Learn, Reap, Earn

As part of the program, experienced male elders in Iglulik teach young men traditional hunting and fishing skills on land. Elders are paired with their teenage counterparts in a ratio of one elder to one or two youth so that learners have close supervision and an intimate learning experience. “We have three hunters, so they will be doing most of the fishing and training, teaming up with young men and showing them how to fish,” said Sam Arfin, the project coordinator.

“So I know Teman [Avingaq, team lead in Iglulik] for 10 years now… I was very impressed by his selflessness. He's been doing things like this for a very long time. He trains young men simply because he was trained as a youth, and it is part of his culture to pass on this knowledge. He has been giving away his catch to people who want and need it for a long time. We thought that maybe with a little more equipment he could do this on a larger scale and really create a good income for people, hopefully train more youth and hopefully grow it that way.”

Arfin also plans to help youth in the future by advising them on how to apply for the AIP.

“We believe that food security in the Arctic will be achieved not only through hunting for terrestrial foods, but also through increased income for fishermen. Therefore, our intention is to take some of these char, flash freeze them and sell them [in the south]as there is already proven demand there… There is so much demand for biomass [for fish from] Nunavut.

“Basically, we want to sell the fish in southern Canada to top restaurants and thus pay fishermen a higher price for their catch. That's our intent with this program given the higher prices in the South and the ability to freeze the char stored by these folks [collect] Fishing all year round.”

The initial investments for “Learn, Harvest, Earn,” with its $425,000 profit, go toward the purchase of a large fishing boat for char fishing, two wide-track snow machines (for ice fishing), and two large sea-can-style refrigerated containers (one in Igloolik and Iqaluit to meet supply and demand). “If the hunters have a load of fish, there will be no immediate pressure to get them all the way to southern Canada. The rest of the funds will be spent on smaller things like a dinghy, nets, safety equipment and the like.”

We’ll make sure to run a tight ship – pun intended.”

Aneeka Anderson: Investing in the future of Inuit women

“Receiving the award was absolutely incredible – I feel like I'm still in shock… It was great to be in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center and accept the award with my team members. It was great to be together and accept the award as a team in the spirit of the award,” said Aneeka Andersen, team leader for Investing in the Future of Inuit Women. The project, which received nearly $100,000, emerged from Nunavut-based nonprofit One Plane Away and aims to train young Inuit women in remote communities and provide them with employment and skills development opportunities.

Nunavut has the highest birth rate in Canada. At the same time, access to baby items is particularly difficult in northern communities due to high shipping costs. Prices are sometimes two to three times higher than in southern Canada and are due to the fact that most communities already have a low supply of these essential goods. Investing in the future of Inuit women would involve training and paying local women to both provide food and run the organization.

Anderson emphasizes that her team will “hit the ground running” and use the funds to get the project off the ground in the coming summer months. “We are truly inspired to begin our youth employment and mentoring program with One Plane Away, our partner organization, in June.”

The priority will be to ensure that the two to three youth they hire, including current high school student Geena Veevee, who will work in Iqaluit, receive adequate pay while also pursuing training in the nonprofit sector. “The first thing we’re going to do is pay our youth,” Anderson said. “Reward them and compensate them for all their contribution to the day-to-day running of the charity.”

Materials for the sewing program, as well as associated transportation costs – all in collaboration with One Plane Away, a registered charity that sends baby care boxes to mothers in need in Nunavut communities – will be provided a little later.

Currently, One Plane Away is running an online Mother's Day fundraiser that runs through the end of the month. Support a Nunavummiut mother by sending a donation e-card to. You can also donate new and used items, or make a simple monetary donation through the website or social media accounts.

The team spirit of the AIP

“Receiving the award was absolutely incredible – I feel like I’m still in shock,” Anderson told Nunavut News as she waited for her flight back to Nunavut the day after the awards ceremony. “It was great to be in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center and accept the award with my team members. It was great to be together and accept the award in the spirit of the award as a team. It was so inspiring to hear about all the other projects – to get in touch with the other teams and find out what they have in store for the next few months.

“I think the key description of the whole experience was simply 'inspirational.' I feel inspired to implement my project, but also more generally to keep dreaming. You know, when you have an idea, you find ways to make it happen. We can do anything, we can find ways to create change in our communities. Everything starts with a dream.”