Pine Ridge Writing & Art Challenge

Pine Ridge Writing & Art Challenge

Every year we run a Writing and Art Challenge that provides youth with prizes, awards grants to the schools of the Grand Prize Winners and concludes with a community Award Ceremony, celebrating all the entries!

The 2016-17 Writing and Art Challenge Was LEGENDS AND HEROES!

web header_legends and heroesCheck out the Prompt and Rules.

See the Legends& Heroes Writing Challenge Winners

See the Legends&Heroes Art Challenge Winners

You can explore the 2014 and 2015 Winning Written Entries on Medium, an online Magazine:
 The Theme of the 2015 Writing and Art Challenge Was #WeAreHere
  • JulianaWEBBe Inspired by the work of Young Native Artists: at this link you will see the winning ART entries!
  • Be Inspired by the words of Young Native Writers: At this link you can read the winning Writing Entries!
  • Read all about the Awards Ceremony where the community celebrated Native Artists and Writers!


The Theme of the 2014 Writing and Art Challenge was the VOICES OF THE LAND

Youth wrote about ClimateChange, the Keystone Pipeline, the protection of Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth and many more topics relating to issues of sustainability and preservation. The 2014 writers and artists were celebrated at AWARD CEREMONIES  at the Red Cloud Indian School and the Little Wound School on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Grand Prize Winners:

High School Runners-Up

Middle School Runners-Up

Art Honorable Mentions

  • Jasmine Derby, Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Verlin Old Horse, Little Wound School
The Theme of the 2013 Writing Challenge Was Inspirational Lakota Women

scene See the profiles of 2013’s Writing Challenge winners and read their winning entries. Two of the five winners were young men! #HeForShe

In Summer 2013, Colgate University’s quarterly alumnae magazine featured Grand Prize winner Melissa Hernandez’s poem about Anna Mae Aquash, an activist whose body was found years after her murder on the Pine Ridge Reservation. In addition, an excerpt of Melissa’s poem was published in Al Jazeera America.

You might be interested in an Interview of 2013 Writing Challenge Judges Peter Balakian and Maggie Dunne about the entries and the Award Ceremonies.

Peter Balakian said: “[Pine Ridge Reservation] brings us face to face with the U.S. legacy of genocide against Native American peoples… [and] reminds us that we have a crisis of poverty in our culture. … It was powerful to see the rugged plains landscape of the Lakota people; a landscape that’s marked by the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890, a landscape where there’s a lot of history of resilience and refusal to give up their way of life.”… In the poems and nonfiction pieces from [Pine Ridge youth about women in their community], you of course got a sense of the extraordinary struggles that these mothers and grandmothers have endured to give their children nurturing sustenance and love. The cultural struggles were embedded in these pieces of writing.”

Maggie Dunne said: “[This Challenge] is not just about winning, but it’s about writing, and how you can use that as a force to tell stories of yourself and the community.”

Here’s what the 2014 Writing Challenge Judges had to say:

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, Writing Challenge Judge 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 resilience 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. 

The youth of Pine Ridge have a lot to say and we are listening.- we hope that you will, too.”