NEW YORK (AP) — Documentary maker Alanis Obomsawin is this year’s winner of the Edward MacDowell Medal, a lifetime achievement honor given previously to Toni Morrison, David Lynch and Roseanne Cash among others. She is the first female director to win the medal, presented by the MacDowell artist residency program. She is also the first recipient who descends from the Abanaki People, part of whose homeland is now the setting for MacDowell, based in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
“It is a distinct pleasure to be counted among such a magnificent group,” the 90-year-old Obomsawin, referring to the other medal winners, said in a statement.
A New Hampshire native who grew up in Quebec, she has made dozens of movies, focused often on First Nations people, her credits including “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance” and “Incident at Restigouche.” She is also an activist, actor and musician who has received numerous awards in Canada.
“As the Grand Dame of the Indigenous film world and the documentary field, Alanis Obomsawin’s exemplary 52-year body of work uplifting Indigenous stories and triumph inspired us with compelling and unequivocal enthusiasm to award her with the 2023 Edward MacDowell Medal,” Bird Runningwater, a member of the Medal Selection Panel and guide for the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American and Indigenous filmmakers, said in a statement.
The Canadian writer Jesse Wente, board chair of Canada’s Council for the Arts, will introduce Obomsawin during a July 23 gathering at MacDowell,
In its announcement Sunday, MacDowell noted that it “has been reexamining its core values and vision, making changes to outdated and exclusionary policies, acknowledging that its program takes place on un-ceded First Nations lands, and continuing to activate diversity, equity, inclusion, and access throughout the organization.” MacDowell, founded early in the 20th century, had called itself the MacDowell Colony until 2020, when it dropped “colony,” saying the word suggests elitism and exclusion.