Gray Magazine covers Trey Blackhawk, winner of the 2023 Tribal College Blanket Contest

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SUPER. No. 70


The American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills announce the 2023 Tribal College Blanket Contest Winner.

Now in its 29th year, the partnership between the American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills has evolved to provide a platform for the next generation of Indigenous creatives. Launched in 2020, the Tribal College Blanket Contest’s goal is to uplift the voices and work of tribal college and university (TCU) students and provide them with scholarship opportunities. It’s open to any student enrolled in a TCU—no design background is required. And while a design-focused competition is sure to attract those in the arts, this year’s winner, Trey Blackhawk, is proof that creativity knows no bounds.

“When I found out that I won first place, I was ecstatic,” says Blackhawk, a student studying Environmental Science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. (He previously attended Little Priest Tribal College in Nebraska.) “My background is in land development; there’s never a time when I’m not outside strolling through the woods and enjoying nature.”

It was that very nature—and his heritage as an enrolled member of

the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska— that inspired the winning design for his Drum Keepers Blanket, released in March 2024. An ode to his relatives (grandmothers and aunts who danced at powwow ceremonies and an uncle who is the family’s Drum Keeper) who helped him through a time in his life when he struggled with what his Native heritage meant, the blanket incorporates traditional appliqué designs and a gradient of vibrant colors that reflect the seasons of life.

“The appliqué design represents the women in Winnebago, the ones who take care of us,” says Blackhawk, who, in addition to attending school and raising a family, manages the Winnebago Tribal Farm, a sustainable operation focused on creating awareness around food sovereignty and the cultivation of heirloom crops. “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my wife or the women in my life.”

In addition to a $2,000 cash prize and a $5,000 scholarship, Blackhawk will receive six blankets, one of which he plans to gift to his uncle.

The second and third-place winners (Troy Tso and Cydnee Shangreaux) will also receive a cash prize and scholarship money. To date, Pendleton has provided nearly $2.6 million in higher education support for American Indian and Alaska Native students; the American Indian College Fund has provided $345 million in scholarships, programs, and community support since its founding in 1989.

“The students’ stories are so meaningful,” says Cheryl Crazy Bull, Wacinyanpi Win (They Depend on Her), a member of the Sicangu Lakota nation and president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. “The designs speak to how they think of themselves in relationship to place or landscape, or their families and heritage, and we get to see who they are emerging from those designs.” h

FROM LEFT: The Directions Home saddle blanket is designed by Troy Tso, a Diné (Navajo) artist. For the Morning Storm crib blanket, Cydnee Shangreaux (Oglala Sioux) used a pattern created by her great-great-great-great grandmother and passed through her family’s maternal line. The Drum Keepers Blanket was designed by Trey Blackhawk, the American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills 2023 Tribal College Blanket Contest Winner. PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS
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