WASHINGTON – The Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation is looking for essays in its sixth annual Young Native Writers Essay Contest. The national writing contest focuses on the richness of Native American life and history, and challenges youth to speak out on issues important to their tribal communities.
For 2011, students who participate will be asked to write on the following topic: “Describe a crucial issue confronting your tribal community today. Explain how you hope to help your tribal community respond to this challenge and improve its future.”
The contest is designed to encourage young Native American writers to explore their heritage while becoming positive forces in their communities. It is open to high school students from all tribes throughout the United States. The Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation partners with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“We are greatly inspired by Native American students who share their experiences and aspirations through their writing,” said Angela Ruth, executive director of Holland & Knight’s Charitable Foundation. “For us at Holland & Knight, the essays open doors to new understandings of the challenges of hope emerging from Indian country, and for the students, a chance to present their thoughts to a receptive forum.”
“The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian encourages Native Americans across the country to explore their heritage and share their experiences with the rest of the world,” said museum director Kevin Gover, Pawnee. “We are excited to be part of such a wonderful contest, and look forward to hosting the winners during their visit to our nation’s capital.”
Students interested in participating can visit the Holland & Knight Young Native Writers’ Essay Contest website for official contest rules and to view past winning essays. All essays must be completed by the entry deadline, April 1, 2011 and uploaded to the contest website. Any essays sent by mail, faxed, or e-mailed will be disqualified.
Five finalists will be named in May and all finalists and their teachers will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where their activities will include an honor ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian; a tour of the Cultural Resources Center where tribal objects can be viewed and studied; Native American author symposiums for students and their teachers; a tour of the Capitol and a tour of American University. The winners will also receive a $2,500 scholarship to be paid to the college or university of their choice during a scholarship ceremony that will take place at Holland & Knight’s Washington, D.C. office.
The contest debuted in 2006 in Red Lake, Minn. in response to the March 2005 event where a student of Red Lake High School shot five fellow students, one teacher, one security guard, members of his family and then himself. The foundation developed this contest with the hope that the Red Lake community would find healing by promoting its rich culture and traditions. From the original group of winners, all students have taken post-high school studies at a university or college.
“Indian country has come a long way in recent years, but has such a long way to go,” said Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former U.S. senator and current senior policy advisor with Holland & Knight. “The key to bringing an end to 60 and 70 percent unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction, high teen pregnancy and suicide rates, is not through government programs. We must inspire the hearts and minds of our young people to be the change in Indian country. I applaud the Young Native Writers Contest for providing an avenue of inspiration for our young leaders.”