Scholarship Contest Encourages Native Youth to Showcase Speaking Skills

December 07, 2012

To preserve Native languages or not to preserve Native languages? That is the question Cut Bank Creek Press, a Native-owned publishing company is posing to Native youth in its first scholarship contest titled “Speakin’ in Indian.”

College students can upload five-minute YouTube videos with a response to one of the following: 1.) “Native people and tribes should expend substantial resources on the preservation/restoration of Native languages and make it a top priority because…” or alternatively, 2.) “Native people and tribes should not expend their limited resources on the preservation/restoration of Native languages and make it a top priority because....”

One $1,500 scholarship will be awarded for each argument.

“It’s a very small step. Still, those that can speak persuasively and passionately tend to be leaders within our communities. Native people are, and always have been, perfectly capable of speaking for ourselves, yet we haven’t had a formal pipeline to develop strong Native speakers and leaders,” said Gyasi Ross, the Blackfeet author of Don’t Know Much about Indians (but I wrote this book about us anyways) and an ICTMN columnist, in a press release. “Now, of course we have some amazing and great Native leaders, but they succeeded through sheer will and without a formal mechanism to develop them. This scholarship is a start to creating a formal program because the leaders of today need to take the initiative to help mentor and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders.”

Ross, who created the scholarship to increase the number of Native youth who feel confident speaking for themselves and their people, will serve on the final panel of judges with Steven Paul Judd, a Kiowa and Choctaw visual artist and filmmaker.

Full contest rules will be announced on January 1, 2013 and submissions will be accepted from January 15 through February 15, 2013. They will then be reviewed through April 1, 2013 and finalists will be announced the first week in April.

Once announced, the four finalists will be flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico where they will present their speeches and the two winners will be chosen.

Speakin in Indian is presented in partnership with Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre, a Seattle, Washington nonprofit that engages Native youth in creative self-expression and discussions about their lives.

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