Students take part in essay contest


AUGUSTA – Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced the winners of the Native American History and Culture Essay Contest and congratulated more than 100 students from throughout the state who took part in the inaugural project recently.

Local winners were:

Second-place high school finisher, Jessica Turcotte, grade 10, Poland Regional High School; essay, “Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Relations with European Settlers.”

Second-place middle school finisher, Alexis Servidio, grade six, St. Joseph’s School, Lewiston; essay, “The Government Structure of Native Americans in the State of Maine.”

Dedicated to the memory of former Passamaquoddy Chief Melvin Francis, the contest was open to students in middle and high schools. It required them to explore Maine native history and write an essay of between 500 and 1,000 words. To assist students and educators, the Secretary of State’s office offered educational materials and resources through a special Web site.

Participants were free to select a topic, but suggestions were offered, including the history of Native American diplomacy, relations between tribes, relations with European settlers, Native American economics, the migrations of Native American peoples or effects of treaties with European settlers.

Dunlap noted that Maine law provides opportunities for Maine students to learn about Maine’s Native Americans. He explained that the essay competition gave students an opportunity to share and showcase what they’ve learned in an important area of study.

Essays were reviewed by a panel of judges who selected a winner and runner-up in the middle and high school categories. First-place finishers received a $250 savings bond; second-place, $100 savings bond. All first- and second-place winners were invited to take their class to Augusta.

Students toured the State House, the State Museum and the State Archives, where they viewed Maine’s original treaties with Native peoples and original field books of the early European explorers. The documents are kept in vaults at the Archives and are rarely viewed.

“In dedicating this contest to Passamaquoddy Chief Melvin Francis, we honor an individual who worked hard to make life better for his people – especially children and students. He was devoted to his community and dedicated to the work of creating opportunities for all individuals. We hope his example of public service will foster interest in the Native American experience and instill a sense of civic duty in others,” Dunlap commented.

“Congratulations to everyone who took part, and many thanks to our judges, Donna Loring, Lee Ann Francis and Jim Henderson. Interest in this first annual competition was strong, and many outstanding entries were received. I’m pleased to announce the winners, and I look forward to recognizing their achievement during upcoming ceremonies in Augusta” Dunlap added.

Details about the contest are available online at