The 2015 Writing and Art Challenge had its best year ever and the Pine Ridge Reservation celebrated its young writers and artists in an award ceremony on April 18, 2015, as part of LCE’s Global Youth Service Day and Generation Indigenous #GenI challenge.
The Red Cloud Indian School was in it to win it this year in the #WeAreHere Writing Challenge… and for the first time ever its students earned the Grand Prizes in BOTH categories of the Writing Challenge! The Red Cloud Indian School hosted the award ceremony, which was open to the community.
Red Cloud student Marcus Ruff, took home the High School Grand Prize with his poem “Things to Remember if You Have An Alcoholic Father,” an intimate checklist of responsibilities, frustrations and emotions. Marcus was a runner-up last year with a spoken word entry named “I Awake in Heaven” a powerful reflection about the destruction of sacred lands and the spirits. Marcus is a performer who speaks from the heart and will be rep’ing Pine Ridge at this year’s Brave New Voices competition, a national spoken word challenge.
Red Cloud student Dorian Sage took home the Middle School Grand Prize with his essay “Tell The World,” a compelling call to action that challenged his peers to take responsibility for their lives and to embrace traditional Lakota culture. Dorian told us that he wrote the essay on the day that it was due, while he was traveling to school on a bus. If that’s how he writes when he is distracted then the future is looking pretty bright for Dorian!
Both Marcus and Dorian performed their pieces at a school-wide and community assembly, and were enthusiastically cheered on by their peers and the public.
In addition to winning prizes for themselves, each Grand Prize Writer earned the Red Cloud School grants in the amount of $1,000…. in other words, together they earned $2,000 for their school!
The ART Grand Prizes went to Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford for her amazing picture of Unci Maka, or GrandMother Earth. The Young Artist Grand Prize went to Asa Steele, a Middle School student at Our Lady of Lourdes for a Dreamcatcher with the message: “Why let your dreams be caught and not achieved?”
Winners from schools across the Reservation attended the award ceremony, which was hosted at the Red Cloud Indian School. Other schools represented by winners included: Little Wound Middle School, Little Wound High School, Wolf Creek School, Our Lady of Lourdes, Crazy Horse School and the Oglala Lakota College.
LCE President Maggie Dunne greeted the crowd, presented winners with plaques and cash prizes and congratulated everyone who entered for taking advantage of the opportunity to let their voices be heard and art seen. She said: “this year there were more entries than ever and the quality of those entries demonstrates how seriously you took this event. The heartfelt stories of pride, challenges, disappointments and accomplishment of life on Pine Ridge and the cultural priorities of youth are memorialized in a collection of Native Youth Voices, which is posted on our website. The winning art entries are positive, creative and inspirational. The writing and art judges had the difficult task of selecting winners, but the unanimous opinion is that all of you who entered are winners. I founded LCE to amplify the voices of Native Youth and to provide opportunities for leadership and expression. It’s wonderful to watch Native Youth become the storytellers of their own stories.”
The Grand Prize winners received cash awards, plaques and a personal letter from United States Senator John Thune. The South Dakota Senator sent two representatives to the award ceremonies to congratulate all the winners and to deliver letters of commendation to Lakota Children’s Enrichment and all of the Grand Prize winners!
Writing Judge Autumn White Eyes, last year’s Grand Prize winner from Pine Ridge, and a graduate of the Red Cloud School and Dartmouth College, said:
“I was absolutely blown away by the entries of the writing challenge. You are all so amazing and truly wish I could write like you when I was your age. I want to encourage you all to write and share your unique stories. I also wanted to say a few words about our community. I know that we are hurting from the suicides that have happened. I learned something important from My Uncle Walt Pourier… that we need to remove the negative of mindset of suicide, and replace that mindset with living life because there is so much incredible life to live. I know that you can achieve your dreams and whatever it is you are passionate about. Whether its here on the rez or off of it. As long as you are trying your best. So don’t give up, and please keep going. We all care and love you.”
Autumn then provided the audience with a sneak peek of her newest spoken word piece, entitled “Indigene” which will be published soon by Indigene Studio. We’ll be giving a shout out when it is completed — it’s not to be missed. Thank you Autumn, for sharing your amazing work and for leading by example.
Writing Judge Jasmine Mans, an internationally acclaimed Spoken Word Performer who served as a judge in this year’s challenge, delivered a powerful message about the importance of using words to express yourself and to change your world. She performed her original piece “Dear First Lady,” a story about her young cousin coming to the realization that Michele Obama’s role at the White House provides her hope for her own future: “Thank you for being a brown girl’s dream come true, something tangible to look up to.” Jasmine spoke from the heart and captivated the audience with her direct and confident style.
Multi-media artist and Art Judge Andres Gallardo was on hand to congratulate the winners. He made the winning art entries into artistic creations that he calls “GEMS” painted on old vinyl LP records. Each of the winners and runners-up were presented with a #GEM. The GEM collection included the winning art work of Pine Ridge youth, as well as pictures of popular figures such as the Schimmel sisters, Sherman Alexie and Frank Waln.
Andres has dropped over 1,000 #GEMS at locations around the world. Keep your eyes open for a GEM in your neighborhood, if you find them Andres encourages you to take them home, for free!
HIGH SCHOOL GRAND PRIZE: (RCS) Things To Remember If You Have An Alcoholic Father, by Marcus Ruff. Note: this grand prize also won the Red Cloud Indian School a grant of $1000.
MIDDLE SCHOOL GRAND PRIZE: Tell The World, by Dorian Sage (RCS) Note:This Grand Prize also won the Red Cloud Indian School a grant of $1000.
High School RUNNERS-UP (sorted by school affiliation, not rank)
Middle School RUNNERS-UP (sorted by school affiliation not rank):
Young Adult Honorable Mention: Ladeanne Young Bull Bear (former OLC student)
Experienced Artist Grand Prize: Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford
Young Artist Grand Prize: Asa Steele (Our Lady of Lourdes)
Experience Artist Runners Up:
Young Artist Runner-Ups:
Wahpe Waste Win Clifford (Our Lady of Lourdes)
Cetan Ducheneaux (Our Lady of Lourdes)*
Runner-Up: Savahana Jo Montileaux (Our Lady of Lourdes)
Runner-Up: Elizabeth Iron Horn (Little Wound Middle School)
* Cetan Ducheneaux, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes, was a Runner-Up in BOTH the art and writing challenges — WAY TO GO!!!!!!