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Basil Johnston receives 2013 Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award

Toronto, June 12, 2013 – Elder, writer and scholar Basil Johnston is the 2013 recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award. The $7,500 prize will be presented to Mr. Johnston at a special event on June 21, 2013 at Georgian College’s Aboriginal Resource Centre in Barrie.

Created in 2012, the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award celebrates the work of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in Ontario. The award also honours the next generation: each recipient is invited to nominate an emerging Aboriginal artist who in turn receives a $2,500 prize. Basil Johnston has selected musician Greg Ritchie as this year’s Emerging Aboriginal Artist.


  • Born on the Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, Ontario, Basil Johnston is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.Basil Johnston
  • He is a storyteller, writer and educator who has devoted his career to the celebration and preservation of Anishinaubae heritage. This includes spending 25 years at the Ethnology Department of the Royal Ontario Museum with a focus on Anishinaubae heritage – particularly on recording language and mythology.
  • Johnston writes in both English and Anishinaubaemowin. He has written 25 books in English and five in Anishinaubaemowin, and has published articles in various newspapers, anthologies and periodicals.
  • His writing includes memoirs, short stories and collections of traditional Ojibway tales. Among his books are Crazy Dave, Ojibway CeremoniesOjibway HeritageMoose Meat and Wild Rice and Indian School Days. He also wrote the script for a film based on the Ojibway tale The Man, the Snake and the Fox, and has developed audio programs to teach Anishinaubaemowin.
  • Johnston continues to share teachings about the traditions, language and history of the Anishinaubaeg people. His travels have taken him to various communities, reserves, and universities and colleges across Canada and the United States.
  • Over the years, Johnston has garnered many honours. He is a recipient of the Order of Ontario, the 2004 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Heritage and Spirituality and the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. He has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, Laurentian University and Brandon University.


“Basil Johnston is the second recipient of this new award.  Through his art form he is contributing to the preservation of the Anishinaubae language and cultural knowledge. Our heartfelt thanks and admiration for his dedication and leadership.”
Peter Caldwell, Director & CEO, Ontario Arts Council

The 2013 jury remarked that Basil Johnston: “moves effortlessly through cultural divides and through the oral and written worlds…The awe in his writing is his distinctive style.” They also noted that “he was clearing a path for the rest of us.”


  • Greg Ritchie is from Saugeen First Nation. He is a self-taught musician who grew up playing music in church.Greg Ritchie
  • Ritchie plays a variety of instruments, including drums, bass and piano. His preferred instrument is the guitar. His style draws from various genres, such as blues, soul, funk, country, pop and indie rock.
  • Currently, Ritchie is working on original material which he hopes to release later this year.


  • The Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award is a $10,000 award program: $7,500 is awarded to the laureate, $2,500 to the Emerging Aboriginal Artist.
  • Laureates and Emerging Artists are announced in June each year, to mark National Aboriginal History Month.
  • Jurors for the 2013 award were: Denise Bolduc (Toronto), Binaeshee-Quae Couchie-Nabigon (Pic River First Nation), Lorraine Crane (Slate Falls), Richard Hill (Toronto), Daniel David Moses (Kingston).
  • Any Ontarian, Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, can nominate an Aboriginal artist or Aboriginal arts leader for this award. Nomination forms for the 2014 award will be available in September 2013.
  • Guidelines for the award are available here.
  • Learn about the 2012 laureate.


Shoshana Wasser
Communications Coordinator
Ontario Arts Council
416-969-7434 | 1-800-387-0058, ext. 7434