A youth-led organization from the Northwest Territories is a finalist for the Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP).
The Western Arctic Youth Collective was started in 2018 by a group of Inuvialuit and Gwich’in youth from the Beaufort Delta, aiming to provide youth-led programing and support.
Alyssa Carpenter is one of the founders.
“We’re looking to empower [youth] to be those changemakers that our communities so desperately need by providing a platform of youth-led collaborative initiatives and partnerships in their communities,” Carpenter explains.
The organization’s initial plan was to host numerous events in communities across the territory, but this was put on pause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had to really adapt significantly to going online,” Carpenter says.
The collective aims to improve the lives of mainly Indigenous youth who are 18 to 35 years old, an age group Carpenter says has been largely forgotten.
“There’s assumptions that we can kind of partake in some community-based programming, or opportunities outside of the region. But a lot of times, it’s very restrictive on age,” she explains.
Carpenter says there are barriers on things like childcare for single parents in that age group.
If the Western Arctic Youth Collective wins the youth category — a monetary prize of up to $100,000 — Carpenter says the group plans to run events including training sessions and youth leadership retreats that are land-based and cross-cultural.
Arctic Inspiration Prize
The AIP is an annual competition aimed at supporting and bolstering innovative projects in the North to benefit northerners.
Leela Gilday is the chair of the NWT Regional Selection Committee.
“The prize is really a great opportunity… To really help big, ambitious northern projects to get off the ground,” she says.
Gilday says there have been numerous winners that have gone on to do important work in the NWT, but one that sticks out to her was the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation.
The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation won the $1 million prize in 2017 and the money was used to establish an on-the-land wellness camp.
“That helped them establish their current camp and all of the programming that they do, which is really a powerful testament to on-the-land, traditional, accessible healing,” she says. “So them winning… My heart soared. I was so happy and proud because I know we need it so much.”
As for what made the Western Arctic Youth Collective stand out this year, Gilday says youth-led projects are often exciting, but this was particularly special because it is dedicated to supporting other youth.
“It really is youth-led collaborative initiatives and partnerships,” she explains.
Another finalist from the NWT is in the Dehcho. The project, led by Herb Norwegian, is called Dene Ahthit’e: Rebuilding the Indigenous Economy in the Dehcho.
The project aims to use Dene values and laws for economic development with projects such as the Edéhzhíe Protected Area, Gilday says.
“To me, it kind of demonstrated our traditional economy and bolstering that, I felt it was really forward thinking,” she says.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Feb. 17, and will include a musical component, curated by Gilday.
Although she adds the task was challenging this year as the event is virtual — requiring artists from the five regions to be filmed and taped.
Gilday says viewers can look forward to “a beautiful performance” by Wesley Hardisty, who is representing Denendeh.
The ceremony will be broadcasted on APTN.