Smoke Signals wins five NAJA awards

Smoke Signals, the bimonthly newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, won five awards from the Native American Journalists Association for stories and photos published in 2016, as well as the 2017 Elias Boudinot Free Press Award.

The Boudinot Free Press Award was given to the Grand Ronde Tribe because of the Independent Tribal Press Ordinance, which was approved by Tribal Council in December and became effective in mid-January.

Tribal Cultural Outreach Coordinator Bobby Mercier carries the first salmon after he harvested it at Willamette Falls for the Tribe’s fourth annual First Salmon Ceremony that was held after the harvest at the McLean House in West Linn in May 2016. This photograph won a second-place award for Best News Photo in the Associate Division of the Native American Journalists Association's 2017 National Native Media Awards. (Smoke Signals file photo by Michelle Alaimo)

The ordinance codifies the guarantee of a free press that is included in the Tribal Constitution. It also established a five-member Editorial Board to oversee operation of the Tribal newspaper and ensure there is no undue influence regarding editorial content from elected officials.

In addition to the Free Press Award, Editor Dean Rhodes took first and second place in the Best Coverage of Native America category in the Associate Division for his stories “On the Rocks,” which was about Grand Ronde Tribal members harvesting salmon at Willamette Falls for the first time in more than 100 years, and “General Council debates mascot issue” about the March 2016 General Council meeting, respectively.

Tribal photographer Michelle Alaimo won a second-place award for Best News Photo in the Associate Division for her photo “Tribe honors this year’s first salmon” that appeared in the May 15, 2016, issue.

Associate members of NAJA are non-Tribal members who work for Tribal publications.

Former Smoke Signals staff writer Brent Merrill received a third-place award in the Best Feature Story category in the Professional Division for the “Trail of Tears accounting” story that appeared in the March 15, 2016, issue.

The Professional Division is for Tribal member writers and photographers who work for Tribal publications.

The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists in the United States and Canada and drew more than 700 entries.

Judging was conducted by members of the Society of Professional Journalists, University of Arkansas staff and many journalists who work for Indian Country news outlets.

The awards will be handed out during NAJA’s annual convention being held Saturday, Sept. 9, in Anaheim, Calif.

In July, Smoke Signals also received three awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, including a first place in the Target Audience category.