Erin Nicolardi, left, and Emily Payne, co-founders of Rivers to Ridges, an organization that provides outdoor programs for children, families and adults year round, pose for a photo in Whitehorse on Dec. 5. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Two Yukon projects shortlisted for the Arctic Inspiration Prize

Projects from Whitehorse, Carcross up for cash

Two Yukon community projects are among the 10 shortlisted for the 2017 Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP).

Rivers to Ridges, a local education initiative designed to help young people connect with the land, is eligible for up to $100,000. The company wants to develop a “forest school” program for preschoolers, which would see up to 70 per cent of learning taking place outside on the land, even in the winter, said founders Emily Payne and Erin Nicolardi.

“We have ways of keeping little tykes cozy, even in winter,” Payne said with a laugh.

If it’s successful, the company will put the funds into creating an elder program, so they can bring in more community elders to share traditional knowledge with kids. They would also create a bursary, to make Rivers to Ridges more accessible, and to help create “a fair wage” for their staff.

The second project up for the award — Our Families, Our Way: The Peacemaking Circle — is organized by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. The project, headed by Lori Duncan, CTFN’s director of health and wellness, combines traditional knowledge with contemporary counselling techniques to help community members peacefully resolve disputes. That project is up for as much as $500,000.

“Everything we do (in the program) comes back to traditions,” said Duncan.

“This is how we originally did things, which was in circle.… In First Nations tradition, everything revolved around the circle. It was a gathering place for family, storytelling and conflict resolution.”

The program has run once before, with great success in the community, said Duncan. The principal of Ghùch Tlâ Community School in Carcross took the program, which has resulted the skills learned in the program being used for conflict resolution in the school, she said.

“That’s been very successful,” said Duncan. “We’re already seeing results.”

If the program wins the prize, the money would be used to run the program in the future she said, and also to develop a more formal curriculum, so that the program can move towards being an accredited course.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize, which is in its sixth year, is a “philanthropic creation” founded by two Canadian immigrants who “saw a need” for this kind of prize in the North, said executive director Kevin Kablutsiak.

Kablutsiak said many past winners of the program have said that, without the prize money, they would never have been able to complete their projects in their home communities.

“This is really happening with the input of Northerners,” he said. “The AIP really allows Northerners to fund their own solutions, to create new opportunities for themselves … instead of people from the South dreaming up grand ideas about what they can do here in the North.”

Winners for the prize will be announced Jan. 31, 2018 in Ottawa.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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