Indigenous Journalist Wins Pulitzer Prize for Reporting on Church School Abuse
Indigenous journalist Walker, a member of the Okanese First Nation Society in Southern Saskatchewan, and his team have received the Pulitzer Prize for their work titled “Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s”. The project was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “best audio reporting” in 2023.
The project focuses on the church boarding schools in Canada, which have been referred to as “the site of the greatest child abuse in Canadian history”. For over a century, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend these schools, where they experienced physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of priests, nuns, and other teachers. The last of these schools closed in 1998.
Walker’s work sheds light on the stories of the survivors of this systemic abuse. Speaking about this achievement, Walker stated, “I still feel like I’m in shock. It means a lot. It’s an incredible honor. I think of all the people who have shared these stories with us bravely. People should know these stories. Now more people will hear it.”
The Canadian Federal Government has officially apologized to the victims for what happened in the boarding church schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2010 to investigate and document the abuse. Several survivors have shared their stories and experiences with the Commission. It was discovered that some children were even subjected to medical experiments.
The Pulitzer Prize is a prestigious media award that recognizes journalists across 21 different categories. The “best audio reporting” category highlights the importance of audio journalism as a medium for storytelling and sharing important issues that affect communities worldwide.
As Walker and his team continue to shine a light on these important issues, it is hoped that their work will further raise awareness of the struggles faced by Indigenous communities and bring them closer to healing and reconciliation.