Anishinabek Nation honours creator of the Debwewin Citations

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (May 11, 2022) – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe announced today that Maurice Switzer Bnesi, a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation, is to be honoured with the 2022 Debwewin Citation for excellence in journalism and storytelling in August.

“Chi-miigwech Maurice for continuing to share our Debwewin with students all over Ontario. He enriches thousands through teaching Canada’s true history, racist and oppressive policies and their intergenerational effects, including the Indian Act, and the significance and importance of treaty relationships,” says Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.  “He ensures that students know about the many successes and contributions of Indigenous people across Turtle Island. Congratulations on career excellence in both journalism and storytelling!”

Switzer currently serves on the Indigenous Reconciliation Advisory Group of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He resides in North Bay, where he operates Nimkii Communications, a public education practice with a focus on the treaty relationship that made possible the peaceful settlement of Canada.

He is the former Communications Director of the Anishinabek Nation, editor of the Anishinabek News, Assembly of First Nations Communications Director, former publisher of the Timmins Daily Press and the first Indigenous publisher of a daily newspaper in Canada, the Winnipeg Free Press.  Maurice still writes columns for the North Bay Nugget and Anishinabek News.  He also created a partnership with the North Bay Nugget to have a full page in every Saturday edition of the paper called the Niijii Circle Page.

“This page allows us to share stories that normally wouldn’t be covered by a mainstream newspaper,” says Communications Director Marci Becking. “The public education initiative won the 2003 Canadian Race Relations Foundation Award of Honour. He also created this very award – the Debwewin Citations – back in 2002.”

Switzer is the author of We are all Treaty People which is a National Best-Seller in Canada and editor of Nation to Nation:  A Resource to Treaties in Ontario.  He was an integral part of creating the Treaty Learning Centre housed in the Harris Learning Library on the Nipissing University/Canadore College campus.  He has previously been a recipient of the Anishinabek Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in public education.

The Debwewin Citation will be presented at the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity’s Anishinabek Evening of Excellence on August 24 in Chippewas of Rama First Nation.

The Debwewin Citations are the first major awards intended to recognize and encourage excellence in journalism and storytelling about Indigenous issues by First Nations and other writers.  The award name reflects the Anishinaabemowin word for “truth”, and the literal meaning is “to speak from the heart”.

The award has been presented 13 times since first given to Toronto Star journalist Peter Edwards in 2002 for his extensive body of work related to the death of unarmed land defender Dudley George on Sept. 6, 1995, at the former Ipperwash Provincial Park. Since then, it has honoured not just journalists, but others who use their storytelling skills to create greater awareness about First Nations people across Anishinabek Nation territory.

Dr. Catherine Murton Stoehr was awarded the 2021 Debwewin Citation and will join Maurice at the Evening of Excellence.  The 2019 recipients were (now retired) radio programmers for the REZ 91 radio station in Wasauksing First Nation, Vince and Anita Chechok.  The 2014 recipient was author and former journalist Waubgeshig Rice of Wasauksing First Nation for his excellence in storytelling.  The 2013 recipient was CBC reporter Jody Porter for her ongoing coverage of First Nations issues in the Thunder Bay area.  Laura Robinson received the Debwewin Citation in 2010 for her Olympic coverage of Indigenous culture. Anishinabek recipients have included renowned late Anishinabek author Basil Johnston from Cape Croker, columnist Bud Whiteye from Walpole Island, and former writer/broadcaster Jennifer Ashawasagai from Henvey Inlet.  Honourees of the award include Greg Plain, Rick Garrick, Jody Porter, Mark Bonokoski, and Perry McLeod-Shabogesic.  The 2004 honouree was Lynn Johnston, who introduced First Nations people and places into “For Better or For Worse”, her cartoon strip carried by over 2,000 newspapers in 22 countries.