It was a monumental day for Canadian journalist Connie Walker: over the course of 24 hours, she won a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Walker’s podcast “Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s,” an investigation into the abuse her father suffered at a residential school, took home the Pulitzer’s audio reporting award on Monday and the Peabody’s podcast award on Tuesday.
She said she got a call about the Pulitzer Prize from her boss on Monday, while she was in Seattle for a speaking engagement.
“She told me the news, and then my mind just went blank. I was silent for like 10 seconds just trying to process it,” Walker said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s just such an incredible honour. I’ve just been pinching myself ever since finding out.”
The Pulitzer citation describes the podcast as “a personal search for answers expertly blended with rigorous investigative reporting.”
Walker said winning the two prestigious awards feels like a dream.
“It’s this recognition that Indigenous stories matter, and that our voices are important, and that our stories are important, and that Indigenous journalists should be supported in helping to tell these stories.”
Walker, who is from Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan, tracked down priests from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Sask., for the podcast from Spotify’s Gimlet Media, and spoke with survivors, including her aunts and uncles, about what happened decades ago.
The idea came to Walker after she learned more about how abuse at the residential school affected her late father throughout his life, she said.
But she said that while the podcast started with the personal, it expanded into a much larger story about residential school survivors and the legacy of intergenerational trauma.
Walker said the process of reporting the story taught her more about her family, and particularly her father, who was not a major presence in her life.
She said she hopes these awards bring more people to the podcast.
“I hope that it means that more people will get to hear the survivors who bravely shared their stories with us. That, to me, would be the biggest reward of all, is to know that their stories and their voices are reaching more people.”