Celebrations of Inspiration
The winners of Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s VOICES OF THE LAND Writing and Art Challenge were celebrated on Thursday April 10 and Friday April 11, 2014, at the Red Cloud Indian School and at the Little Wound School (the schools of the High School and Middle School Grand Prize winners). Students from across the Reservation and members of the Oglala Lakota Tribal Council attended the Award Celebrations. Nobel Laureate Jody Williams , Susanne Pari, Jasmine Mans and others addressed the students.
Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who served as a Judge in the Writing Challenge and spent several days in April on the Pine Ridge Reservation said:
“I recently had the opportunity to speak with student authors and others on Pine Ridge. The voices of Lakota youth clearly reflected their strength and dedication to protecting the land, the environment and Lakota culture. All Americans should be educated about the history of failed promises and broken treaties that have contributed to the obstacles facing the Lakota and other first peoples. I look forward to my continued involvement in Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s movement to help support the empowerment of Lakota youth so they can work to develop and enrich the lives of their communities while they help change the way that Americans view injustices in this country.”
Spoken word performer Jasmine Mans, also a Judge in the Writing Challenge and a participant in Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s ceremonies said: “These young scholars have voices of power and strength that resound in their poetry and last names. I truly look forward to building and crafting stories with them. If we continue to ignite the light of literature and art in their daily lives– they’ll have all the tools they need to change not only their world, but ours.”
Susanne Pari, Iranian American journalist and author, said: “It was great to return to Pine Ridge for the second year as a judge for Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s writing challenge. The youth of Pine Ridge have remarkable strength and resiliance and the lands are so much a part of their culture; it is important for their voices to be heard in the national dialogue.”
LCE Founder Maggie Dunne said: “I am proud of every young person who entered the challenge and had the courage to put their thoughts on paper or spoken words. Creative entries included stories through the eyes of ancestors, animals, and Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth). Lakota youth set forth opinions about protecting the earth and the effects of mining and pollution on their culture and community.
We celebrate these stories on Earth Day, but will continue to share them throughout the year as they present timeless stories of endurance, passion, culture and environmental justice.
Award Ceremonies at Red Cloud Indian School and Little Wound School
LCE President Maggie Dunne announced that Lakota Children’s Enrichment received almost 100 thoughtful entries this year and that LCE hopes to publish a collection of the student entries. Links to the Award-Winning entries appear on our Project Page and are listed at the end of this post.
Dunne presented winners and runners-up with awards and presented the two hosting schools, Red Cloud Indian School and Little Wound Middle School, with certificates for $1,000 grants for supplies and educational materials. For the second year in a row, the Rotary Club of Scarsdale, NY awarded a grant to LCE to fund school awards.
Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, an activist who has devoted her life to the protection of the land and to human rights initiatives told the student assemblies, “It’s not about me; it’s about us, working together.” She encouraged youth to find their passions, to follow their passions and to use their voices to improve their lives.
Spoken Word sensation Jasmine Mans, with her cool style and heartfelt dialogue, engaged the audiences of both schools in poetry and artistic expression. Among other things, Jasmine performed her signature Spoken Word piece directed to Michelle Obama, entitled “Dear First Lady.” Jasmine also read many of the award-winning poems written by Lakota youth.
Author and journalist Susanne Pari spoke about the importance of the land to her, as an Iranian American whose family had to leave Iran. Writing Judge Peter Balakian, a poet, best-selling author and an expert on the Armenian genocide, could not attend the ceremonies this year as he did last year, but sent along a video congratulating all participants.
LCE Youth Board Chair Keith Martinez, a former Little Wound Student who graduated from Scarsdale High School through its STEP program and now is a Gates Millennium Scholar at Villanova, invited students to attend LCE’s Game Changers Youth Summit in Pine Ridge at the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, April 12.
The Grand Prize winner of the Young Adult category, Autumn White Eyes, a graduate of the Red Cloud School who attends Dartmouth College in NH, could not attend the ceremony, but congratulated students by videotape and performed her Award-winning Spoken Word entry about the land entitled, Mitakuye Oyasin.
Tribal Council members Thomas Poor Bear, Troy “Scott” Weston, Irving Provost, James Cross and Kevin Yellow Bird-Steele, came out to show their support for the students and honored Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and Jasmine Mans by presentation of Lakota Star quilts.
Two days later, tribal Council member Robin Tapio honored High School Grand Prize winner Colton Sierra with a beaded necklace and a beaded belt buckle at the Game Changers Youth Summit.
Senator Timothy Johnson and Senator John Thune both sent congratulatory letters to Lakota Children’s Enrichment and, individually, to each of the Grand Prize winners.
Grand Prize Winners:
High School Runners-Up
Middle School Runners-Up
Art Honorable Mentions
And from the Rockyford Elementary School… Although the challenge was only open to Middle School, High School or Young Adults, several students from the Rockyford Elementary School participated in the challenge and two students did both the writing and art components! Jasmine Mans read two of the elementary poems at the Little Wound ceremony and LCE provided special recognition to the two young artists! We LOVE their enthusiasm!
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The Prize Winning Works