The CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice is the 2014 recipient of the Debwewin Citation for excellence in First Nation Storytelling.
The award, given out by the Anishinabek Nation, based in North Bay, recognizes those who report about Native and First Nations issues.
Rice, who is based with CBC Ottawa, is from the Wasauksing First Nation, near Parry Sound in northern Ontario.
He said learning First Nation culture was important to him.
“It’s not something I knew a lot about as a smaller child,” he said.
“I did grow up in Wasauksing but there wasn’t a huge cultural influence back in the early 80s.”
Though the community had traditional practices, including sweat lodges and Pow Wows, Rice said traditional stories really resonated with him.
“I learned a lot about who I was as an Ojibwe boy,” he said. “I learned about how things came to be.”
Choosing a career
Rice decided in his late teens that he wanted to pursue a career in journalism.
“As I was going through high school, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, in terms of going on to post-secondary or establishing a career,” he said.
“I was walking through the halls of Parry Sound High School and I saw a flyer for the Rotary Student Exchange program and I thought … since I’m in no rush to really get to university, I might as well check this out.”
From there, he was selected to go to Germany for a year, but before he left, he received a call from the editor of Anishinabek News, asking if he was interested in writing monthly articles.
“So that kind of opened my eyes to the world of getting paid to write,” he said.
“I didn’t really realize you could be paid for doing it on a regular basis.”
He decided to give it a try, and wrote about his experiences in northern Germany for Anishinabek News.
“I got a lot of really good feedback,” he said. “People would write me letters [as] this obviously pre-dated email in the mid to late 1990s, and … it was really special for me.”
Rice came back to Canada, finished his high school education and applied to go to Ryerson to study journalism.
He eventually started working with CBC, and was able to share stories about his culture through his work.
“I’m especially proud of the ReVision Quest series we did out of CBC Winnipeg,” he said. “It was exactly the kind of thing I was doing in Germany.”
Both in Germany and now in Canada, Rice said he has been able to use journalism to educate people about First Nations culture.
Beyond the ReVision Quest series, Rice also contributed to CBC’s 8th Fire series and the CBC Aboriginal site.
“I’m especially grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at CBC,” he said.
Rice will receive his award in Sudbury on Aug. 20.