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Western Heritage Center hosts student contest around American Indian boarding school exhibit

Library of Congress photo of Sioux children from "Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories" exhibit
Photo by Kay Erickson
Library of Congress photo of Sioux children from "Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories" exhibit

Yellowstone and Big Horn County students can enter a contest to create their own projects exploring the history and impact American Indian Boarding Schools tied to the new exhibit currently at the Western Heritage Center in Billings.

“Away from Home: American Indian Board School Stories displays the accounts of the students’ lives at off-reservation boarding schools.

Contest participants will explore the theme Assimilation through Education said Rosalyn Visser, contest coordinator and museum board member.

“We are encouraging students to do their own research. And then they get to choose the format for presenting their project in.”

They can do a film, essay, poem, song, art and even a website.

“It’s really exciting because we…they just have complete creativity. And they get to explore some difficult history,” Visser said.

Projects will be judged on historical understanding, composition, creativity, and strong connection to the theme. Deadline is April 26.

There are two divisions: 4th through 7th grade and 8th through 12th grade. Students can work individually, in pairs or a complete class.

Visser says there will be prizes and all participants will receive a family membership to the museum.

The plan is to have an online exhibit to show all the students’ work. And they hope to have room to have some of the winning projects displayed in the museum.

Students in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties interested in the Assimilation through Education contest can go to the Western Heritage Center’s website at for more information.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.