Two Indigenous wins for Pulitzer Prize
This year's winners include a First Nations podcaster who focused on her father's boarding school experience
Among the winners of this year's Pulitzer Prizes, which recognizes the best of journalism and the arts, included investigative reporter and host Connie Walker, Okanese First Nation (Cree) and the Gimlet Media team won for audio journalism.
The winners were announced Monday.
“Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's,” told in eight episodes, focused on Walker's investigation into her father’s past and the abuse of hundreds of Indigenous children at a residential school in Canada.
“Honestly, I’ve been pinching myself over this news. It is such an incredible honor for our work on Surviving St. Michael’s to receive this recognition. It feels like proof that Indigenous stories matter and that Indigenous people should be supported to help tell them,” Walker said in a press release. “Above all, our team hopes that this means that more people will hear the stories of the survivors who bravely shared their experiences with us and recognize that this is just the beginning in terms of what it means to learn the truth and try to collectively grow and heal from our past.”
Reporter Betty Ann Adam, a citizen of the Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation in northern Saskatchewan, also worked on the podcast.
The podcast has additionally won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the recently announced Peabody award in the podcast and radio category.
The third season of “Stolen” will be released in the fall and will be about Connie and the team investigating the case of two missing Navajo women.
“It’s huge—27,000 square miles of remote terrain with fewer than 200 tribal police officers,” Walker said. “One thing I’ve learned so far is that on the Navajo Nation, the line between missing and murdered is often difficult to prove. In many ways, this season builds on the themes we’ve explored in previous seasons, but hopefully in a way that feels different and exciting to our listeners.”
Other categories in the Pulitzer Prize were for books, drama and music. Michael John Witgen, a citizen of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, was awarded as a finalist in history for his book “Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America.”
Witgen is a professor at Columbia University in the department of history and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.
The book is about the Anishinaabeg, how they resisted removal in their homelands and became key players in the political economy of the Old Northwest by advancing a dual citizenship that enabled mixed-race tribal citizens to lay claim to a place in U.S. civil society.
“Telling the stories of mixed-race traders and missionaries, tribal leaders and territorial governors, Witgen challenges our assumptions about the inevitability of U.S. expansion,” the summary states.
Witgen said he went in with the intention of writing about the history of the American public as a nation of settlers rather than immigrants and U.S. expansion really being the colonization of Native space.
“I’m happy that a project that centered that message was received as well. That seems like a positive step I think,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be an historian, why I wanted to write the book, was to help center Indigenous history as being North American history. You can’t really separate North American history or even U.S. history from Native history,” he said.
He was surprised about being a finalist because he did not know his book was submitted for consideration until his publisher told him. He also is appreciative of being recognized alongside Walker.