Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life

Winner: $20,000
Sponsored by Marla and David Lehberg

2015 Winner


Richard Wagamese


Selection Committee Citation

Richard Wagamese is a member of the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario. He was born near Minaki, Ontario, in 1955, and at the age of five was taken from his family by the Children’s Aid Society – an experience he describes as “baby-snatching” in his first novel, Keeper’n Me, published in 1994.

When Richard ran away from his abusive adoptive home, becoming a street child, he became a reader and hence a writer by going into the St. Catharine’s public library. He began his stellar writing career as a columnist for the Calgary Herald – where he became the first Native Canadian to win a National Newspaper Award. Richard has received numerous awards for his writing; he won the Alberta Writers Guild Best Novel Award for Keeper’n Me; the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, for One Story, One Song; the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction, for Dream Wheels; and Canada Reads’ People’s Choice Poll for Indian Horse in 2012. He has also been awarded two Honorary Doctor of Letters degrees and in 2013 the Molson Prize.

Over a career spanning more than 30 years and numerous honours, Richard Wagamese has become a vital voice in Canadian letters. 

Select Publications

Medicine Walk (2014)
Indian Horse (2012)
One Story, One Song (2011)
Ragged Company (2009)
One Native Life (2008)
Dream Wheels (2007)
For Joshua (2003)
A Quality of Light (1997)
Keeper’n Me (1994)

About the Author

Richard Wagamese has worked as a professional writer since 1979. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including the novels Indian Horse and Medicine Walk. In 1991, he became the first Native Canadian to win a National Newspaper Award – for his column writing in the Calgary Herald. His debut novel, Keeper'n Me, published in 1994, won the Alberta Writers Guild’s Best Novel Award. He has twice won the Native American Press Association Award for his journalism, and he received the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his 2011 memoir One Story, One Song. He is a past recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications and the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize. Originally from the Ojibway Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, Wagamese now lives in Kamloops.

About the Prize

Matt CohenEstablished by a group of anonymous donors, the Matt Cohen Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer, working in either poetry or prose in either French or English. A founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, Mr. Cohen was a celebrated and prolific writer who died in 1999 at the age of 56.

The recipient of the 2015 prize was announced on November 3 at the Writers' Trust Awards.

Gallant_Mavis.jpg “I look upon it as one of the greatest honours of my career, because it perpetuates the writing life of someone who was, I believe, nothing else than a writer.”  Mavis Gallant Winner, 2001 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life



Woodcock Fund




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