Aviaq Johnston, Richard Van Camp among finalists for CODE Burt Awards for Indigenous young adult literature

The $6,000 awards recognize the best YA book by a First Nations, Inuit or Métis author. One award is for English language works and one award is for books in an Indigenous language.
Aviaq Johnston and Richard Van Camp are two of the finalists for the CODE Burt Awards for Indigenous young adult literature. (Submitted by CODE)

Richard Van Camp and Aviaq Johnston are among the finalists for the CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature.

The $6,000 awards recognize the best YA book by a First Nations, Inuit or Métis author. One award is for English language works and one award is for books in an Indigenous language.

Van Camp and Johnston are nominated in both categories. Van Camp's short story collection Moccasin Square Gardens and Johnston's YA novel Those Who Dwell Below are nominated in the English category.

Van Camp's graphic novel Three Feathers, illustrated by K. Mateus, and Johnston's YA novel Those Who Run the Sky are nominated in the Indigenous category. 

2020 will be the first year the Indigenous language prize will be awarded.

The organization said this new prize is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call for the "preservation, revitalization of Aboriginal languages," when the prize was announced in June 2019.

There are three finalists in each category.

Rounding out the English-language category is the middle-grade book The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson.

The final nominee in the Indigenous-language category is the poetry book Inconvenient Skin / nayêhtâwan wasakay by Shane L. Koyczan

The winning books will be announced in 2020.

CODE, the nonprofit organization that administers the prize, will be purchasing 2,500 copies of the winning books and distributing them for free to schools and libraries across the country.

The prize has been awarded since 2013.

Last year's winner was The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline.

Other past winners include Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, Tilly by Monqiue Gray Smith and The Break by Katherena Vermette.

Keep reading to learn more about the finalists.

The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson

The Case of Windy Lake is a mystery novel by Michael Hutchinson. (@Mike_Hutchins0n/, Second Story Press)

In The Case of Windy Lake, cousins Sam, Otter, Atim and Chickadee are known as the Mighty Muskrats of Windy Lake First Nation. When an archaeologist goes missing, they investigate his disappearance amidst increasingly heated environmental protests. 

The Case of Windy Lake, written for readers aged 9 to 12, is the first book by Michael Hutchinson, who is a member of Misipawistik Cree Nation.

Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp

Moccasin Square Gardens is a short story collection by Richard Van Camp. (Douglas & McIntyre, Laughing Dog Photography)

Moccasin Square Gardens is a collection of humorous short fiction set in Denendeh, the land of the people north of the 60th parallel. Richard Van Camp's stories involve extraterrestrials, illegal wrestling moves and the legendary Wheetago, human-eating monsters who have come to punish the greed of humanity. 

Van Camp is a prolific novelist, comic writer and children's book writer whose work includes The Lesser BlessedA Blanket of Butterflies and Little You.

Those Who Dwell Below by Aviaq Johnston

Those Who Dwell Below is a fantasy YA novel by Aviaq Johnston. (Inhabit Media)

After being trapped in a spirit world, a young shaman named Pitu returns to his life in the Arctic in Those Who Dwell Below. When Pitu gets wind of a nearby community that is starving, he realizes he must travel to the depths of the ocean to meet with the sea goddess Nuliajuk. 

Those Who Dwell Below, written for readers 12 and up, is a sequel to Those Who Run in the Sky.

Inconvenient Skin / nayêhtâwan wasakay by Shane Koyczan, translated by Solomon Ratt

Inconvenient Skin is a poetry book by Shane L. Koyczan. (Submitted by CODE)

Inconvenient Skin is a book of poetry that explores Canada's colonial legacy. It was translated into Cree by Solomon Ratt and features art by Kent Monkman and Joseph Sanchez, a member of the Indian Group of Seven.

Koyczan is a spoken word artist who performed at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and has written a libretto for the Vancouver Opera. Ratt is a Cree language educator and teacher.

Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston, translated by Blandina Tulugarjuk

Aviaq Johnston is an Igloolik, Nunavut-based author. Her books include Those Who Run in the Sky and What's My Superpower? (Inhabit Media)

Those Who Run in the Sky is a coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman named Pitu who, while learning to use his gifts, ends up trapped in the spirit world. Those Who Run in the Sky, a prequel to Those Who Dwell Belowwas a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.

Those Who Run in the Sky is for readers aged 12 and up. It was written in English and translated into into Inuktitut by Blandina Tulugarjuk.

Three Feathers by Richard Van Camp, translated by Doris Camsell

Three Feathers is a graphic novel by Richard Van Camp. (Submitted by CODE)

Three Feathers is a graphic novel that explores the theme of restorative justice. It tells the story of three young men who, after being caught vandalizing their community, are sent to live on the land for nine months as part of their punishment. During this time, they reconnect with their heritage and learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Three Feathers was written in English and translated into South Slavey by Doris Camsell.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?