In honour of her late mother, master’s journalism student to receive Indigenous Journalism Fellowship

By Costa Maragos Posted: May 11, 2018 6:00 a.m.

Ntawnis Piapot, a master’s of journalism student, has received the Canadian Journalism Foundation/CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship.
Ntawnis Piapot, a master’s of journalism student, has received the Canadian Journalism Foundation/CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship. Photo by Rae Graham - U of R Photography

Ntawnis Piapot was excited to hear the news.

Piapot, a master’s of journalism student, was informed that she was one of two recipients of the Canadian Journalism Foundation/CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship.

Piapot was also told she would receive the award at a gala at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto on June 14th. That day, June 14, also happens to be the birthday of Piapot’s late mother Elvina.

“I was very excited and very honoured, in particular, because of the date of the gala,” says Piapot. “I will be accepting this fellowship in my mother’s honour. It will be a special night. I feel like it was meant to be.”

Piapot’s mother, Elvina Piapot, was 45 when she passed away in 2011 following a battle with HIV/AIDS.

“She was very courageous. She wasn’t ashamed of what happened to her. She never backed down from living her life because of her illness or anything else,” says Piapot whose family is from the Piapot Cree Nation, located about 50 kilometres north of Regina. “My mom was funny. She was intelligent, artistic. She dabbled in fashion design and loved to write. We were very close as I was an only child for many years and she was a single mom on welfare.”

Ntawnis Piapot
Ntawnis Piapot has gained valuable experience reporting in the field at CBC, CTV, and as a network reporter at the Aboriginal People’s Television Network.
Piapot spent much of her childhood in the inner city of Regina. She moved around a lot, attending seven different high schools before graduating from Regina’s Scott Collegiate.

Inspired by her mother to pursue education, she’s the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Piapot furthered her studies at the University of Regina, taking English and Media classes.

In 2011, she earned a diploma in Indian Communications Arts (INCA) in Communication and Media Studies - a seven-week course at First Nations University of Canada which prepares students to work as journalists.

The INCA experience inspired Piapot to pursue journalism.

“That is when I first did journalism and I just loved it,” she says. “It came naturally to me, pitching stories and talking about how to produce a story and writing. My first radio piece was bought by CBC. People were telling me to apply to journalism school.”

Piapot moved on to the U of R’s School of Journalism,   graduating, with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 2012.

She found work along the way at CBC and CTV Regina. In 2012 she was assigned to be a national reporter for the Aboriginal People’s Television Network in Winnipeg. In 2014, she returned to the CBC Regina newsroom.

Among her accomplishments, Piapot was part of a CBC Regina news team that won the 2016 national Radio Television Digital News Association award for digital spot news for a series on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

In 2017, she enrolled in the U of R School of Journalism’s master’s program. Her thesis is a documentary on Indigenous motherhood, which she plans on completing in August. Piapot is passionate about pursuing stories that affect Indigenous people in Canada.

For her fellowship, Piapot will explore how journalism schools in Canada are implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action to incorporate Indigenous studies into their journalism programs. She will work at CBC News in Winnipeg for one month at its Indigenous Centre. Her resulting work will be considered for broadcast by CBC.

“I was the only Indigenous student in the Journalism school. And, at the time, I was having to educate some of the other students about Indigenous issues,” says Piapot. “There’s good and bad experiences that come with that. But overall it was good. It’s important for journalists to have an understanding of Indigenous issues.”

Following completion of the Fellowship, Piapot is moving to Saskatoon with hopes of continuing her CBC Career.

In the meantime, as she works on her master’s thesis and prepares for her fellowship duties, Piapot thinks of her mother.

“She never got to finish high school or attend university, but education was very important to her. She told me that education was a way to get out of the ‘hood’ and make a better life for myself,” says Piapot. “I think she’d be really proud of me.”