Prizes were also awarded to students finishing second and third in the contest, which was judged by USD faculty and staff for originality, style and relevance to the announced topic. Samantha Taft, of Norris, S.D., received a $1,000 prize for second place while Tyler Stolsmark of Hartford, S.D. and Tyler Jordan Smith of Sioux City, Iowa received $750 each in a tie for third place. All four winners of the competition are Native American students and they were announced at the Tiospaye Wacipi powwow at the DakotaDome recently.

Students entering the essay competition were required write at least 750 words and defend their opinion on a recent editorial in the Rapid City Journal that proclaimed South Dakota as a “state that readily advertises its Native population but regularly ignores its presence.” The contest also required students to explain how they would try to change the situation if they were in a position of authority in their community.

According to Emily Haddad, acting chair of the Native Studies Department at USD, the amount of students entering the competition exceeded last year by about five times the entries received. She added, “The essays were so good that the faculty committee reviewing submissions ended up awarding four prizes rather than the three that had been advertised.” For more information about Native Studies at USD, please visit the department’s website at or send an email to

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