The Story of Michael and Community Empowerment
Indigenous peoples are the youngest and fastest-growing segment of Canada's population, yet they do not enjoy the same benefits as other Canadians.
In many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, food poverty and restricted access to healthy food alternatives are leading to nutritionally deficient diets. In northern communities like Inukjuak, Nunavik, Québec, lack of access to affordable, healthy food, and safe water is a serious issue for thousands of people.
Now, through social art, community members are making their voices heard.
Implemented by Makivik Corporation, the Pirursiivik project is a community-led initiative that promotes healthy choices around water and nutrition through a greenhouse and a social art program. Tupiq A.C.T., a multidisciplinary troupe of young Inuit artists, facilitated circus workshops for youth in the community. Michael, a young man from a neighbouring community, bumped into the troupe while attending his first semester of a cooking course in Inukjuak. Michael understood the importance of healthy nutrition, and social art gave him a way to share it with others.
“With the Pirursiivik project, we did shows in Inukjuak. Our message was to eat healthy, eat more vegetables, fruits, and traditional foods, to be in good shape, and to lead a healthy lifestyle.” - Michael, young man from a neighbouring community
Michael recalls the experience as being very rewarding, and that it inspired positive changes among some of his classmates who attended the shows, as well as within himself.
“I stopped eating junk food. (…) I don’t even eat sugar anymore, I quit exactly four years ago.” says Michael.
Social art activities based on Inuit culture and art are not only entertaining and fun, but also provide opportunities for shared learning and discussion about traditional foods, nutrition, and the importance of clean water.
“It has to be a good show for sure. You have to be very creative with the show, have some comedy in it and make a point at the same time, so it can have an impact on younger audiences.” says Michael.
Pirursiivik means “a place to grow” in Inuktitut. To empower Indigenous youth and ensure their well-being, we must not only address the inequalities that hinder their development, but also the drivers of positive change in their communities. Through water and art, we can build a better, more equal future.