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USD Hosts 25th Annual Native American Essay Competition

Photo of Native American Essay contest winners. From left to right - Melanie Picklesimer (3rd place), Jessilynn Bean (1st place) and Mekko Bearkiller (2nd place).

VERMILLION, S.D. – Now in its 25th year, the 2017 annual Native American Essay Competition asked students to address the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Tuesday., April 25, students who wrote the three top essays received their awards and read from their works at USD’s Native American Cultural Center. The annual competition, sponsored by the Native American Studies Program and the Department of English, is made possible by an anonymous gift to the USD Foundation.

First place went to Jessilynn Bean, a social work and Native American studies major from Arrowsmith, Illinois. Mekko Bearkiller, a social work major from Bennett County, South Dakota, was awarded second place. The third place award went to Melanie Picklesimer, an elementary education major from Colorado Springs, Colorado. The students received prizes awarded as scholarship funds.

The Native American studies program resides in the College of Arts & Sciences and draws from anthropology, art history, English, health sciences, history, Lakota language and psychology. The program provides an intellectual environment where teaching and research are based on the priorities and knowledge of South Dakota’s Native communities as well as the North American and global indigenous experience. Elise Boxer, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, is coordinator of the program. David Posthumus, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology, is also a faculty member in the program.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News