Dr Robert Lee wins George Polk Award

Bobby Lee

Congratulations to Dr Robert Lee, University lecturer in American History, who has been awarded a George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious in journalism, for his investigation into how the United States funded land-grant universities with expropriated Indigenous land.

Last year, Dr Lee and co-winner Tristan Ahtone – then Indigenous Affairs editor for High Country News, now editor-in-chief of the Texas Observer – published a hard-hitting report and website revealing how 52 American universities built their fortunes using 11 million acres of Native American land, signed over amid violence, corruption and coercion.

Through exhaustive research over several years, the Land-Grab Universities project located 80,000 parcels of land scattered across 24 states, identified their Indigenous owners, and traced every dollar endowed with profits from dispossession in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Since publication, a number of the universities at the heart of the story have responded by launching initiatives, changing their land acknowledgment practices and using the report, website, and data set in their teaching.

The George Polk awards are conferred annually by New York's Long Island University to honour special achievement in journalism. Winners are chosen from newspapers, magazines, television, radio and online news organizations. Judges place a premium on investigative work that is original, requires digging and resourcefulness, and brings results.

For more, see the University of Cambridge’s award announcement or its previous coverage of the project.