This year organizers of the Young Native Writers’ Essay Contest asked high school students to “describe a crucial issue confronting your tribal community today and explain how you hope to help your tribal community respond to this challenge and improve its future.”
First place winners of the contest wrote on a number of topics including the importance of education, clean water, putting an end to alcoholism and substance abuse, preserving culture, unemployment and curriculum in schools.
“Why don’t more Comanche youth take the path to a college degree,” asked Harrison Boling, Comanche, in his first place essay. “A common reason for their choice to not go or drop out is the difficulty of the transition from local community life to life on campus far away.”
He wants to increase the number of Native American youth who graduate college by supporting tribal candidates who plan on increasing funding for the Comanche Nation College and by becoming a mentor to Native high school students while in college himself.
“As a mentor, I would spend time with Native youth who don’t have any family members who attended college,” Boling wrote in his essay. “I would like to encourage middle school and high school students to stay in school and make a plan for higher education. I believe that more Native Americans can keep and honor tribal traditions while also making college education a new tradition.”
Another first place winner, Hunter Harmon, Nanticoke, fears his tribe will soon be extinct and wants to create a film documenting the history of his tribe to help preserve the culture.
“I understand that there is little that I can do to prevent my tribe form becoming extinct,” Harmon wrote. “However, I am confident that I can work to preserve the legacy of my tribe so that future generations will never forget the people of the tidewater.”
He plans to interview tribal leaders to preserve their stories. “I want future generations of Nanticoke’s to view my documentary and understand how the culture, sacrifices, and passions of their ancestors helped shape them into the people they became.”
Other first place winners of the essay contest include Chance Carpenter, Hupa Tribe; Trevin Cole, Choctaw; Talon Ducheneaux, Cheyenne River Sioux; Neyom Osceola, Seminole Tribe of Florida; Morek Robbins, Yurok; and Alana Stone, Rosebud Sioux.
"It is inspiring to read the thoughts and innovative ideas of young Native people today, who are committed to the betterment of their tribal communities," said Kevin Gover, the Pawnee director of the National Museum of the American Indian, which has partnered with Holland & Knight since 2006 to hold the essay contest.
For winning, finalists receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. from July 18 to 22. While there they will tour NMAI, other Smithsonian museums, monuments and have a meeting with the Native American Embassy.
Author of These Few Words of Mine Ed Edmo, Shoshone-Bannock, will travel with the group and hold a symposium on creative writing.
Winners also receive a $2,500 scholarship to attend the school of their choice.
To read all of the winning essays, visit the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation website.