Union of Ontario Indians
TORONTO - Jennifer Ashawasegai, news director at Moose FM Parry Sound, is the recipient of the 2008 Debwewin Citation - an award that recognizes and encourages excellence in reporting about First Nations issues by aboriginal and non-native journalists.
Ashawasegai, citizen of Henvey Inlet First Nation and the mother of two teenagers, was presented the award today by Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival held at the Rogers Centre.
"This award recognizes excellence and truth in reporting on First Nations issues within our territory. Ms. Ashawasegai clearly demonstrates these values time and time again," said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
"Jennifer is always the first reporter to call me on any First Nations' issue," said Beaucage. "When the Union of Ontario Indians sends out a news release, we know we'll hear from Jennifer. While she is always objective and tenacious, she is very proud of her Anishinaabe culture and it shows through her reporting."
Ashawasegai produces "Bamoseda", a one-hour aboriginal news magazine that can be heard weekly on the Haliburton Broadcasting Group Inc. stations in Timmins, Parry Sound, Kapuskasing, Elliot Lake and Cochrane.
In addition to her regular duties as a radio journalist, she is a regular contributor to the Anishinabek News, a monthly publication produced by the Union of Ontario Indians. She studied journalism in the Aboriginal Media Program at First Nations Technical Institute on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
The selection committee said Ashawasegai "demonstrates her
dedication to her work by working above and beyond the call of duty and takes whatever measures appropriate to engage in her local community. Her style is unique and she is one of the rare journalists who can deliver fair and balanced coverage of both Native and non-Native issues equally."
Debwewin is an eastern Ojibwe word which translates into "truth" in English, but which literally means "speaking from the heart".
Truth is one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinabek people, who believe that living a good life can only be accomplished through wisdom (nbwaakaswin), love (zaagidwin), respect (mnaadendmowin), bravery (aakdehewin), honesty (gwekwaadziwin), humility (dbaadendiziwin), and truth (debwewin).
According to the Debwewin Citation terms of reference, "For journalists, 'truth' should mean more than accuracy; it also implies fairness, balance and context." The award was first presented in 2002 to Toronto Star journalist Peter Edwards for his reporting on the events that led to the 1996 death of Anthony "Dudley" George in Ipperwash Provincial Park. Winners have included Lynn Johnston, who introduced First Nation characters, places and storylines into her world-famous comic strip "For Better or For Worse".
Rationale for the Debwewin Citations:
Due to the deficiencies of mainstream education curricula, most Canadians have been exposed to inaccurate and incomplete portrayals of aboriginal culture, tradition, and contemporary issues. As a result, mainstream media reporting is the primary public education source for information about Native issues, often with disastrous results.
"Aboriginal people are not well-represented by or in the media. Many Canadians know aboriginal people only as noble environmentalists, angry warriors, or pitiful victims. A full picture of their humanity is simply not available in the media. Mainstream media do not reflect aboriginal realities very well, nor do they offer much space to aboriginal peoples to tell their own stories."
- Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.