Essay Competition Caps Off Busy Year for Native American Studies Program

Xavier Wright and Jesús Treviño Xavier Wright, a USD media & journalism major, receives his first place plaque from Jesús Treviño, associate vice president for diversity, for the Native American Essay Competition at USD.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Winners of the 24th annual Native American Essay Competition received their awards and read from their works on Monday. The competition, sponsored by the University of South Dakota Native American Studies Program, is made possible by an anonymous gift to the USD Foundation.

This year’s essay competition asked students to address sexual violence against Native American women as it relates to current native and non-native relations and historical trauma against indigenous people. First place went to Xavier Wright from Oelrichs, South Dakota. Melanie Picklesimer, an elementary education major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, was awarded second place. The third place award went to Logan Bullard, a secondary education major with a history focus from St. Albans, Vermont. The students received prizes awarded as scholarship funds.

The essay competition ceremony is one of the program’s last major events in an academic year that welcomed numerous visiting speakers to campus, including Nick Estes, USD graduate and doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico; Nicky Belle, Indiana University graduate student; Audra Simpson, associate professor of anthropology at Columbia University; and MacArthur Fellow and legal scholar Sarah Deer. Native American Studies will also host the American Indian Studies-Great Plains Consortium, a higher education group formed to support Native American studies across the region, on Friday, April 22.

In other program news, David Posthumus, Ph.D., and Elise Boxer, Ph.D., both assistant professors in the program, presented their research at various conferences throughout the year. In addition, Boxer was named president of the American Indian Studies Association, the longest standing organization dedicated to the discipline of American Indian or Native American studies in the nation.

“The Native American Studies Program is stronger than ever at USD,” said Kurt Hackemer, Ph.D., coordinator of the Native American Studies program and professor and chair of the Department of History. “The program features a revamped and thoroughly modernized curriculum, offers interesting programming throughout the year, and is taught by dedicated faculty who excel at working with students.”

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