The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has awarded independent journalist and Indian Country Media Network contributor Jenni Monet its prestigious Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for her coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota.
Embedding herself there last September, Monet, an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico, has chronicled the NoDAPL fight with dispassionate precision in the face of numerous obstacles, including arrest—a topic she also covered objectively even as she went through the experience. Some of her work for ICMN is cited among the coverage that garnered her the award, as are stories for Reveal, YES! Magazine and High Country News.
“Her work stands apart as a reporter who chronicled with depth and clarity the occupation by the Standing Rock protesters who call themselves ‘water protectors,’ and the concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and mass arrests with which they were met,” the judges said in announcing their decision about her coverage of opposition to the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long oil pipeline. “Combining a deeply informed historical, cultural, and political frame of reference with compelling narratives, Monet showed how a deep racial divide, poverty, and marginalization of the Lakota Sioux made their act of resistance and the response by police an episode that was decades in the making. Quoting both protesters and law enforcement, Monet explained how the protests had become for many a fight for religious freedom and human rights. She wrote about how demonstrators forming prayer circles on the occupied land were tear-gassed and arrested, some saying they were tagged and placed in cage-like holding facilities.”
She herself was placed in such a cell upon her arrest on February 1, something that was also acknowledged by Columbia, where she earned a master’s degree in 2012.
“Monet embedded herself in the protest encampment during the harsh North Dakota winter, reporting in a volatile environment where no one could guarantee her safety,” said the journalism school in its statement. “While covering one of many confrontations between protesters and police, Monet was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in riots, despite identifying herself to police as a journalist.”
Held overnight, she still faces charges and an uncertain trial date.
The Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award honors the late New York Herald Tribune reporter, according to Columbia, recognizing “outstanding achievements in reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination in the United States.” It includes a $1,500 honorarium, and Monet will speak to Columbia Journalism students and professors at Columbia University’s annual Journalism Day on May 16.