Open to all USD freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Answer the Essay Question Below to Enter the Contest

In the 1970s, the rise of American Indian studies programs asserted and rallied around the notion that “the personal is political.” The personal being comprised of the following: identity, individual/collective histories and reasserting land rights (i.e. treaty rights). The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s current fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), just north of their current-day reservation boundaries, but across traditional Oceti Sakowin lands, is grounded in the exercise of their tribal sovereignty under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. DAPL would destroy sacred cultural and burial sites. Furthermore, the pipeline would also run under the Missouri River, endangering the water supply of its residents and 8 million people living downriver. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight against DAPL has been a catalyst to the rise of Indigenous activism. Water protectors and their allies, both nationally and globally, have fought the construction of DAPL on the front lines and in federal courts.

How does the events that transpired this past year reflect or resonate with your own individual life and lived experiences? And/or how do the events that transpired this past year affect what it means to be a global citizen?

Deadline: 5 p.m., March 15. No late submissions will be accepted.

First Place


Second Place


Third Place


Note: Essay prizes are provided as USD scholarships.

Format: Essays must be a minimum of 1000 words/maximum 1200 words, Times New Roman, 12-point font and double spaced, 1 inch margins. You must cite a minimum of 2 sources (including oral interviews with water protectors).

Submission: Electronically submit your essay and a cover page with your contact information to the native studies program at

Evaluation Criteria: Essays are evaluated anonymously by USD faculty and staff on originality, style and relevance to the announced topic.