Big Read Essay Contest

Native American History & Culture

Essay Contest

About the Native American History & Culture Essay Contest

Calling all young writers! Enter the Library’s and WordPlay Cincy’s Native American History & Culture Essay Contest for grades 7–12 about the rights and experiences of Indigenous peoples. Gift cards will be awarded to three winning writers after the contest ends on November 30, 2022.  

The winning essay has been selected and will be announced in February 2023!

This contest is one of the activities leading up to a May 2023 visit from award-winning There, There author Tommy Orange. 

Thanks to our funder! The NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in Partnership with Arts Midwest. 

Essay Contest Rules

  • The contest was open to students in grades 7–12. 
  • Entry was limited to one essay per student. 
  • Essays must follow all contest guidelines. 
  • Essays were due November 30, 2022 and must have been submitted online in the form below or here. 


  • The essay must be between 500–2,000 words. Indicate the word count at the end of the essay. 
  • Essays should be in Times New Roman size 12 font, double-spaced, and with one-inch margins.  
  • Essays will be rated according to purpose, idea development/support, organization, sentence structure, correctness, language, effectiveness, exploration of the theme, and ability to follow guidelines. 
  • The essay must address one of these writing prompts: 

Grades 7 – 8 Essay Prompts

    • What does Thanksgiving mean to Native Americans? 
    • How was racism in the Native American mascots perceived? 

Grades 9 – 12 Essay Prompts

    • Compare Indigenous displacement and the slave trade of African Americans. How are Indigenous and African American communities still affected today? 
    • Discuss the Native American residential schools and the effects they had on Indigenous people. 


Three essays will be selected as winners of the essay contest and earn grand prizes:

  • First place: $150 Visa gift card
  • Second place: $75 Visa gift card
  • Third place: $50 Visa gift card.
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