Journalist Brandi Morin’s report on the death of indigenous children in Canada’s boarding schools wins the NAJA Prize.
Al Jazeera contributor Brandi Morin has won Best Feature Film at the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) Awards for her story of Canada’s “Crying Shame: The Fields Full of Child Bones.”
The Grand Prize was awarded by the NAJA Awards 2022 judges for the feature published through the Slow Journalism/Features unit for Al Jazeera English Online.
As part of her ongoing coverage of Indigenous communities, Morin’s reportage delves deeper into the dark history of Canada’s boarding schools, a network of some 139 institutions that forcibly separated Indigenous children from their parents and were established with the intent to improve Indigenous culture, language, family… and social ties.
From the opening of the first school in 1831 to 1996, approximately 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis (mixed race) children in Canada were forced to seek shelter and board in schools that compensated for their neglect and physical, emotional, and sexual neglect child abuse was notorious.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) estimates the number of deaths in the schools at between 4,000 and 6,000.
In her story, Morin looks at the impact of Canadian government-funded and church-run schools through the perspective of those who survived them—men and women who, generations later, are still haunted by the abuses they and their loved ones endured.
When the Canadian government turned down a request for funding to locate unmarked graves in 2009, some First Nations groups began using their own resources to hire specialists to operate ground-penetrating radar. The first sets of bones were discovered in 2021, sparking a wave of similar discoveries near former dormitories across the country.
During an unprecedented visit to Canada 14 months later, Pope Francis publicly apologized to indigenous people for the “evil” of boarding schools.
“We are delighted that this award recognizes Brandi’s relentless commitment to telling Indigenous stories and centering Indigenous voices and perspectives,” said Carla Bower, Editor-in-Chief of Al Jazeera English Online. “And we are grateful to the survivors who have shared their stories with us. We must continue to hear their voices and tell the stories of the children who never made it out of these facilities alive.”
Originally founded as the Native American Press Association in 1984, NAJA’s stated mission is to serve and empower Indigenous journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and advance their cultures.
Al Jazeera’s Emmy-winning documentary Fault Lines also won second place in the TV – Best Coverage of Native America category for Buried Truths: America’s indigenous boarding school, a documentary about America’s dark past with indigenous boarding schools.
Honorable mentions also went to Al Jazeera employee Delaney Nolan, for the Louisiana Indigenous community fighting for hurricane justice, and to Al Jazeera’s English television report, Native American Children Faced Cultural Genocide in Boarding Schools.