In an effort to promote Mi’gmaq stories — and to encourage the writing talent in the area — the Chiefs of the three communities represented by the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS) created the Mi’gmaq Writer’s Award.
It officially started in 2008, with only one winner. Since then, the prize has been split in two — $500 for a “17 and under” winner, and $1,500 for a “18 and older” winner.
“[The Chiefs] want the knowledge of our culture to be preserved in the language, through stories,” said Juliette Barnaby, the Office Manager at the MMS.
Submissions are judged with simple criteria in mind. First of all, a story has to be written well. Writers have to be recognized band members. And the big question judges ask is, what’s the relevance? “[The goal] is to capture relevant Mi’gmaq content, such as tradition,” said Barnaby.
Barnaby used examples such as stories from elders, or traditional land use. But “relevant Mi’gmaq content” is open to interpretation. A story about a community member living in a major city elsewhere in the world could easily win. “To me that would be a fabulous story,” Barnaby said. “To explain to somebody who lives on a reserve, the struggles of people that live off reserve.”
Barnaby said the submissions over the years have been great. “I don’t know if I would say there’s one that would stick out, in particular,” she said. “Because … obviously they’re very very good, because they won.
Submissions for 2015-2016 are due April 29.
As a past recipient of the Mi’gmaq Writers Award, I feel as though that opportunity gave me the confidence to make my writing public and to share it with my Mi’gmaq brothers and sisters. It had reawakened the creative writing flame inside me, and since then I have been inspired to create and write more, specifically spoken word poetry and short stories. I have since also given myself a goal of writing a novel in the next few years. Story is powerful, and it’s up to us, as Mi’gmaq people, to tell ours.
– Killa Atencio-Mitchell,
Author of Guided by the Moonlight
When writing I am able to express the things I’ve always wanted to say and to have discussions that do not always occur naturally. The Mi’gmaq Writer’s Award gives Mi’gmaq young and old the opportunity to do that as well. My own piece “White Feather Speaks” allowed me to share my feelings and findings with my community on the seldom spoken topic of the Two-Spirit. This award carries on the long practiced tradition of story telling and allows us all to grow through the words and experiences of our people.
– Duane Isaac,
Author of White Feather Speaks