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Sitka’s Michaela Goade becomes first Native American to win Caldecott Medal

An Alaska illustrator has become the first Native American to win one of the two top prizes in...
An Alaska illustrator has become the first Native American to win one of the two top prizes in children’s literature.(Courtesy of Sydney Akagi)
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 7:10 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sitka illustrator Michaela Goade found out she was the winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration of a children’s book on Sunday, making her the first Native American to win the award.

Goade, a member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, is the illustrator for the book “We Are Water Protectors,” written by Carole Lindstrom. The book narrows in on the need to protect the planet’s water from corruption and was inspired by Indigenous-led movements across the country and the fight for environmental justice.

“It means a lot to help represent different Native communities and work towards greater representation because that’s really what our books are really all about,” Goade said in an interview with Alaska’s News Source.

While she is the first Native American to win the award, Goade says she is excited by the progress being made in publishing today regarding Indigenous representation.

We Are Water Protectors
We Are Water Protectors(Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)

Goade says she was involved in the project after the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, wanted an Indigenous illustrator for the book. Goade says she’s been interested in art and illustrating since she was little and after college, she moved back to Southeast Alaska and worked on local projects, specifically more picture books, that have also won awards.

Goade has illustrated another book, “I Sang You Down From the Stars,” written by Tasha Spillett, which comes out in April. Last month, she had her work displayed across Google, as her illustration of Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich was the search engine’s doodle on Dec. 30, 2020.

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