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Kolby KickingWoman 
Indian Country Today

Judges for the American Mosaic Journalism Prize have selected freelance journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat, Secwepemc & St'at'imc, as one of two recipients for its unrestricted $100,000 cash prize.

Mexican-American photojournalist Ryan Christopher Jones was selected as the other recipient.

Since 2018, the Heising-Simons Foundation has awarded the prize to two freelance journalists “for excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the United States.”

The cash prize is one of the largest for journalism in the United States and comes as a surprise to the recipients. The winners were announced Thursday, Feb. 9.

It was such a surprise, NoiseCat said he was on the phone with Heising-Simons Foundation Director of Communications, Brian Eule, for 30 minutes before he dropped the news on him.

“I was floored. It was like Friday evening, and I was kind of in a state of shock for the rest of the weekend,” NoiseCat said on the ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez. “It was pretty amazing.”

NoiseCat’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Athletic, National Geographic, The Washington Post and more.

The press release highlighted his work on “The Census Powwow,” which followed a Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara citizen’s journey to count everyone on her reservation for the 2020 Census; an examination of fatherhood from the perspective of Indigenous men in “Indigenous Fathers Take Lessons From Their Own Experience to Create Healthy Lifestyles for Their Children;” and a story on unhoused Black mothers in California who reclaimed property from investors. 

(Related: Cherokee author awarded $100,000 for journalism excellence)

NoiseCat said the experience of Indigenous communities can resonate and matter to a broader audience.

“My work is inspired by a belief that Indigenous peoples’ experience and wisdom can contribute to understanding and addressing the world's most pressing challenges – from the climate crisis to anxieties around imperialism and race,” he said in the press release.

Based out of the Pacific Northwest, NoiseCat is a New American and Type Media Center fellow. His upcoming book, “We Survived the Night,” takes a piece of his personal narrative and combines it with a contemporary look at Indigenous life in the U.S. and Canada.

With the cash prize, NoiseCat looks forward to pursuing bigger, more ambitious projects and to push himself as a writer and journalist.

“This prize is also going to, you know, make it possible for me to support myself and to you know, really go for it on some new journalistic and creative directions, which is just so, so, so awesome and so encouraging,” he said. “I'm really grateful for that.”

Through the award, the Heising-Simons Foundation seeks to uplift “journalists doing exceptional work and fostering greater empathy for people often underrepresented or misrepresented in the media.”

Nominations are submitted confidentially by leaders in media and journalism and selected by a panel of 10 judges from the industry.

At the end of the day, NoiseCat is grateful for those who have let him tell their stories and is excited about the stories that continue to come out of Indian Country. He also hopes he isn’t the last to win this award.

“I hope that, you know, this is just the beginning for many, many more native journalists.”

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