National Museum of the American Indian Announces Native Youth Essay and Scholarship Contest

December 13, 2010
News Release

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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is joining with the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation to launch the sixth-annual Young Native Writers Essay Contest, which invites Native American youth to speak out on issues affecting their tribal communities.

The contest invites high school students from American Indian tribes in the United States to explore their heritage and use the power of their words to inspire change. For 2011, students are asked to describe a crucial challenge confronting their tribal community and how these challenges can be met and overcome. Previous essay topics have included homelessness, loss of language and cultural traditions, substance abuse and suicide among Native youth.

“Indian Country has come a long way in recent years but has such a long way to go,” said Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne), 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 Essay Contest for providing an avenue of inspiration for our young leaders.”

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 submitted by April 1, 2011, and uploaded to the contest website at

Five finalists will be named in May, and all finalists and their teachers will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in an honor ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian and get a tour of the Capitol and the museum’s Cultural Resources Center, where tribal objects can be viewed. Participants will also take part in writing workshops, led by an acclaimed Native author. 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 office.

The contest debuted in 2006 in Red Lake, Minn., in response to the March 2005 event where a Red Lake High School student 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 pursued degrees at a college or university.

“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 Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the museum. “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.”

For more information on the essay contest, visit or contact Susan Bass, Holland & Knight LLP at For more information on the museum’s programs to promote indigenous arts and scholarship, visit  

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