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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Education Department Awards Young Creative Spirits
by Rob Capriccioso - Indian Country Today staff
credits: all photos by Rob Capriccioso - Indian Country Today staff

WASHINGTON – Paige Fourkiller, a Cherokee eighth grader from Oklahoma, has been working overtime to be recognized for her artwork.

For the last few years, she entered a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education that encourages kids in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to create artistic and written representations of certain themes.

This year’s theme was “Tradition is My Life, Education is My Future.”

Fourkiller used pen and ink to draw a colorful representation of a young woman in a graduation cap and gown next to a giant dreamcatcher and a school.

“It’s supposed to be me,” Fourkiller explained. “I’ll graduate from eighth grade this coming year.”

She ended up coming in first place in the sixth through eighth grade artistic division.

Along with two other first place winners, Fourkiller recently traveled to the nation’s capital to see her art displayed in the Education Department’s main lobby.

The full exhibition consists of 21 matted and framed art pieces and a book of essays.

The students’ artwork will later go on tour over the course of the next year to several other venues, including the National Museum of the American Indian, the Oklahoma History Center, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It’s really humbling to be here,” said Angela Pacheco, another student recognized at the event. “I’m thankful to my family for inspiring me to be here.”

The 12th grader, of Santo Domingo Pueblo descent, chose to enter the essay portion of the event. Her first place entry was based on her multicultural learning experiences.

She grew up only knowing how to speak the Keres language, so it was quite an achievement to be recognized for her writing in English.

She hopes to attend New Mexico State University after high school, where she plans to pursue an English degree. She also wants to one day be a secondary education teacher.

Macklin Becenti, a Navajo student now in 12th grade from Arizona, was recognized for his artistic abilities. He learned to appreciate art from his uncles, and he plans to study film and video in college.

Becenti was also chosen to become the first high school participant of NMAI’s Emerging Artist Program. The program is meant to encourage the artistic growth of indigenous youth.

“It is a great privilege to be here,” Becenti said. “I am so grateful.”

More information about the exhibit and past and future competitions can be found online.

Next year’s theme will be “Bringing Honor Through Education,” and the deadline for entry is Jan. 29, 2010.

2009 Artist Winners

1st: “Learning for All Children” by Mia Allen (Cherokee)
2nd: “I am Bear Clan” by Gavin French (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)
3rd: “My Love” by Amber Roy (Northern Paiute/M’Chigeeng Ojibwe)

Grades K-2
1st: “Tradition Guides My Future” by Aubrey Brown (Cherokee), 2nd grade
2nd: “Moving Tradition Toward Education” by Kinley Soap (Cherokee), Kindergarten
3rd: “Believing in Myself” by Sonja Mendoza (Gila River Indian Community), 1st grade

Grades 3-5
1st: “The Quilt of Traditions” by Caleb Williamson (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians), 3rd grade
2nd: Untitled by Lara Yazzie (Navajo), 5th grade
3rd: “Traditional Culture” by Candace Jefferson (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians), 4th grade

Grades 6-8

1st: “Catching My Dreams Through Education” by Paige Fourkiller (Cherokee), 7th grade
2nd: “Education Tree” by Sabre Billie (Seminole Tribe of Florida), 6th grade
3rd: Untitled by Uyvaya Lomakema (Hopi), 8th grade

Grades 9-10

1st: “Earth’s Classroom” by Santana Shorty (Navajo), 10th grade
2nd: Untitled by Coleman Stevens (Oneida Indian Nation), 9th grade
3rd: “Student” by Kayla Soares (United Houma Nation), 9th grade

Grades 11-12
1st: Untitled by Macklin Becenti (Navajo), 11th grade
2nd: “Student” by Michelle Zahgotah (White Mountain Apache Tribe), 12th grade
3rd: “Vision of Life” by Otis Rustin (San Carlos Apache/Jemez Pueblo), 12th grade

Honorable Mention
“Education in Two Worlds” by Jalen Kemble (Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma), 9th grade
“Tradition is My Life/Education is My Future” by Anna Muselmann (Cherokee), 11th grade
“Student” by Reyberta Kessay (White Mountain Apache Tribe), 12th grade

2009 Writing Winners

Grades 6-8
1st: “Ways of Life” by Evan Baca (San Juan Pueblo), 7th grade
2nd: “Tradition is My Life, Education is My Future” by Mariah Coffee (Warm Springs), 8th grade
3rd: “The Pueblo Ways” by Ashley Salter (San Juan Pueblo), 7th grade

Grades 9-10
1st: “Voices to Remember” by Daphne Coriz (Santo Domingo Pueblo), 10th grade
2nd: “Old Lessons for New Horizons” by Sean LittleCook (Ponca), 9th grade
3rd: “My Sacred Bowl of Traditions” by Kinsley Candelaria (San Felipe), 10th grade

Grades 11-12

1st: “Multicultural Learning” by Angela Pacheco (Santo Domingo Pueblo), 12th grade
2nd: Untitled by RedHorse Blackelk Jim (Navajo/Lakota), 11th grade
3rd: “Tradition is My Life, Education is My Future” by Zack Ellison (Cherokee/Osage), 11th grade
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