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Florida contests mark Native American Heritage Month

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School seventh graders in their classroom after appearing virtually before Tribal Council on April 14, 2022. The students are Brody Riley, Harmany Urbina, Joleyne Nunez, Ilya Trueblood, Hannah Platt, Timothy Urbina, Kiera Snell and Sally Osceola. (Courtesy photo)

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Florida Department of Education and Volunteer Florida have partnered to offer contests for students that coincide with Native American Heritage Month – observed in November.

“I am proud to honor and celebrate Native American Heritage Month to showcase the rich culture and their contributions to our country,” Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo said in a Nov. 4  news release. “We recognize the resiliency and strength of Native Americans and continue to empower their voices for future generations.”

Volunteer Florida, a nonprofit, focuses on volunteerism and national service programs in the state.

The contests – art for grades K-3 and essays for grades 4-12 – are open to students in Florida. The theme is “celebrating the achievements of Native American Floridians.”

“The Seminole Tribe plays an important part in Florida’s history and culture, and we sincerely appreciate being included in this meaningful educational outreach program that reaches students across our state,” Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe, said in the release. “We want to thank Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, as well as Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., for their continuing commitment to the Seminole Tribe and the Native people of Florida.”

A seventh grade class at the tribe’s Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on the Brighton Reservation influenced the creation of the contests. In the spring this year, the class pushed for a statewide program that recognized National Native American Heritage Month.

Organizers said the K-3 students in the art contest should submit original, two-dimensional artwork based on this year’s theme. Four statewide winners will be selected. Each winner will receive a $100 art supplies gift card and a one-year pass to Florida state parks.

Entries in the essay contest for grades 4-12 must be no longer than 500 words and be based on the theme. Six winners will be selected: two each from grades 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Winners will receive a two-year college plan scholarship and a $100 gift card for school supplies.

The essays should be about a Native American from Florida who has had “an impactful and inspiring effect on their community.” Examples provided in the release include:

  • Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, the first female chairwoman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Prior to being elected as the first female chief in 1967, Jumper was a nurse and was cofounder of the Seminole News, now the Seminole Tribune.
  • Osceola, an outspoken advocate for Seminole rights in the 1800s, led the Seminoles against forced removal from their lands during the Second Seminole War.
  • Micanopy, born near St. Augustine in the late 1700s, became chief of the Seminoles in 1819. During his time as chief, the U.S. purchased Florida from Spain and he served as the Seminole chief during the Second Seminole War.
  • Billy Bowlegs III, born in 1862, was considered one of the greatest hunters and guides in Florida of all time. He lived to be nearly 103 years old, and was a spokesperson for the Seminoles, helping document and inform others about their history.

Meanwhile, parents, principals, students and teachers are invited to nominate full-time educators of all student grades for the Native American Heritage Month “Excellence in Education” award. Four winners will receive $2,500 each and a set of classroom books.

Prizes for contest winners are provided by the Seminole Tribe. All contest entries must be received by Nov. 17 at 5 p.m.

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