NAJA selects Pember as one of three recipients for 2021 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Journalism

Mary Annette Pember to be recognized during 2021 National Native Media Awards virtual ceremony Oct. 28

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) named Mary Annette Pember (Red Cliff Ojibwe), National Correspondent for Indian Country Today, as one of three recipients for the 2021 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Journalism, which recognizes groundbreaking work by journalists that creatively use digital tools in the role of community watchdog. The award includes a $500 cash prize for the individual or team selected.

Pember was nominated and selected for her story ‘The Catholic Church siphoned away $30M paid to Native people for stolen land.’

Pember will be recognized for the award alongside High Country News and The Aboriginal People’s Television Network during the 2021 National Native Media Awards virtual ceremony on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. CT via Zoom. Registration is available here.

“The selection committee was very impressed by these three entries,” NAJA Vice President Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton said. “All three were deeply researched and are leaving long-lasting imprints on Indian Country. Rather than single just one out from a particularly strong class of entrants, we agreed it was best to honor all three.”

The Team

Mary Annette Pember
Pember is currently a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. She has worked as an independent journalist focusing on Native American issues since 2000. Her work has appeared in other venues including the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Aljazeera, The New York Times, Rewire News, The Columbia Journalism Review, Yes Magazine, In These Times and others. She worked as a staff photojournalist and photo editor for mainstream daily newspapers for several years before beginning her writing career. In her writing and photography she has covered subjects including the high rates of sexual assault among Native women, sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women, health, impact of historical trauma on Native communities and environmental challenges on Native lands, federal policy issues as well as cultural and spiritual topics. 

Pember is the recipient of numerous media industry awards including The Clarion Award, NAJA-Medill Lifetime Achievement Award, Best Environmental Writing and Photography from NAJA, the Associated Press and others. She has been awarded grants and fellowships from Type Investigations Ida B. Well Fellowship, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, University of S. California Annenberg National Health Journalism Fellowship, The MacDowell Colony, the International Center for Journalists Data Award, the University of Maryland Journalism Fellowships in Child and Family Policy and others. She is an enrolled citizen of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe tribe and is past president of NAJA. She currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family.
Alissa Figueroa
Figueroa is a documentary filmmaker and Investigative Journalist in Residence at Morgan State University. She is a 2020-21 Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellow, and was formerly a Senior Editor at Type Investigations, where she directed and helped build the Ida B. Wells Fellowship in investigative journalism. She oversaw and collaborated on over two dozen investigations at Type. Previously, Alissa helped launch the Investigative team at Fusion. Her journalism has been recognized with a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, among others, and her 2015 documentary directorial debut, “Prison Kids,” was nominated for an Emmy and selected as a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Zoe Heisler
Heisler is the communications director at the nonprofit investigative newsroom Type Investigations. Previously, Zoe directed a global team of communications professionals to develop data-driven digital campaigns for clients such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, Defense for Children International, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Heisler received a dual B.A. in Journalism and Philosophy from Brooklyn College, CUNY.
Kat Jercich
Jercich is a writer and editor who lives in Chicago.

About NAJA
The Native American Journalists Association serves more than 900 members, including media professionals working in tribal, freelance, independent and mainstream news outlets, as well as academia and students covering Indigenous communities and representing tribal nations from across North America. For more information, visit:

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