2018: Mní Kin Wičhóni (Water is Life)

2018: Mní Kin Wičhóni (Water is Life)

The Dakota Access Pipeline Oceti Sakowin protest ground was surrounded by tribal flags, banners and t-shirts with words of support. © CinMagPhoto 2016

The winners of LCE’s 2018 Annual Writing and Art Challenge are here!  The Grand Prize Winners in each category earned cash prizes ranging from $250-350 and the High School and Middle School Writing Challenge winners also earned an additional $1,000 for their respective schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The Challenge this year was Mní Kin Wičhóni:South Dakota and North Dakota face threats of water contamination from uranium mining, pipeline construction, and fracking. Over the course of recent events, the phrase Mní Kin Wičhóni (Water is Life) has come to represent the movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline led by the Očhéthi šakówiŋ (the Great N/D/Lakota Nation).

Introducing The Winning Artists

The Experienced Artist Grand Prize Winner is Riley Randall, a student enrolled in the Sherman Indian High School. Riley won a congratulatory plaque and a $350 cash prize for her art work entitled “Protect the Sacred.”

“Protect the Sacred” by Riley Randall

The Young Artist Grand Prize Winner is Anthony “Capo” Brewer, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes. Capo won a plaque and a $250 cash prize.

Untitled by Anthony “Capo” Brewer

Introducing The Winning Writers

The High School Writing Grand Prize Winner is Tyra Akers, a student at Pine Ridge High School. Tyra won a plaque and a $350 cash prize. She also earned the Pine Ridge High School an unrestricted grant from LCE in the amount of $1000 in honor of her win!

We Won” by Tyra Akers

Dear those of the past who tried to kill the spirit of my people:

We won,
We won, we won, we won.
But still, we are not free.
Giving us free things does not make us free

Why should I be afraid to be me?
Are you afraid of me?
Afraid of the blood that runs through my veins?
Is my blood the reason you want to kill me?

Well go ahead, kill me.
But just know
No gun, no poison, no nothing can kill my spirit.
I am NOT Indian.
I am Native American,
I am Lakota,
I am indigenous.

You can not kill me,
you can not kill us.
Although we are human like you,
We are stronger than you.
We are powerful.

We proudly won your wars,
even the wars YOU started,
even the wars against us.
We won.
We won, we won, we won.

But still, we are not free.
So go ahead, kill us
Because we would rather die fighting than die being your slaves.

But remember,
no gun, no poison, no nothing
can kill our spirits.
We are stronger,
We are powerful,
We are indigenous.

What does that make you?
You are thieves and
You are cowards
for thinking that you are stronger than us.

The Middle School Writing Grand PrizeWinner is Mia Murdock, a student at the Red Cloud Middle School. Mia won a plaque and a $250 cash prize. She also earned the Red Cloud Middle School an unrestricted grant from LCE in the amount of $1000 in honor of her win!

“Dear DAPL” by Mia Murdock

We fight, we pray, and we hope.
That should be enough.
It is enough.

You think you’re only taking our land and water.
But you’re taking our lives and futures too.
There’s no way to fix the problems.

You can’t replace scared land.
You can’t replace the footsteps of our ancestors,
the centuries of heritage,
or the prayers the land received.
You can’t even replace the water because you’ll only poison another.

We’re tired.
Tired of not being heard.
Tired of yelling in order to have a voice:
in our future,
in what happens to our water and land,
in our schools,
about us.

Our hearts belong to this water.
Our souls belong to this land.
Our ancestors walked here, lived here, prayed here,
and strived on this land.
We’ve been here for centuries.
we were ignored, belittled, and silenced.
Historians never took our land, but as time progressed,
we were ignored, belittled, and silenced.

We refuse to be quiet any longer.
We are here, we will not leave, and we will be heard.
Whether that be tomorrow, in a week, or a month.
In the end, our voices will be heard, and we will not give up till then.

Enough is enough.

– A Native

Words Of Encouragement From A Writing Judge

Iranian American author, journalist and Writing Challenge Judge Susanne Pari said:

“In this fraught time of extreme identity politics, these original works by Lakota youth are rays of hope for those of us who believe that a better society grows out of calm communication and a mutual acceptance of our cultural and historical differences. Honest and informative, emotional and personal — creations like these invite all citizens to pay attention to those who have been unjustly silenced for too long. It is through the universally valued traditions of poetry, prose, and art that native wisdoms can be revealed and revived. Through storytelling — written, oral, visual — real and important conversations can begin about how to value and share the land on which we live.”

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© CinMag Photo 2016

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To access a menu with links to the winning entries from prior years, please click HERE.