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Dina Horwedel, Director of Public Education, American Indian College Fund

Colleen R. Billiot, Public Education Coordinator, American Indian College Fund

Nov 14, 2023 | Featured Post, Press Releases

American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills Student Blanket Contest Opens November 15

Prizes Include Scholarships and Cash

Denver, Colo.—November 14, 2023—The American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills, the international lifestyle brand headquartered in Portland, Oregon, are announcing they are accepting submissions for The Tribal College Blanket Design Contest, beginning November 15. All American Indian and Alaska Native students attending a tribal college or university are eligible to submit one or several designs in the competition, which awards scholarships and cash prizes to the top three designers. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2024.

The Tribal College Blanket Design Contest, now in its fourth year, elevates the voices, work, and representation of tribal college and university (TCU) students through a high-profile platform to recognize and develop the work of promising artists through internationally distributed products—while providing TCU students with additional scholarship opportunities. The winning designs are featured in Pendleton’s American Indian College Fund collection, which features wool blankets. Pendleton, which has worked with the College Fund since 1995, has provided over $1 million in scholarship support for American Indian and Alaska Native students attending TCUs.

Located in remote, rural areas and on Indian reservations, TCUs provide a critical link to higher education, career advancement, and Indigenous knowledge for their communities. Every year the College Fund provides millions of dollars to thousands of TCU students; the blanket design contest adds to that support while elevating Native art, culture, and stories.

Submission guidelines and applications are available on the College Fund’s web site at Any American Indian or Alaska Native student attending a TCU can submit up to two designs. Formal artistic study and textile design experience are not required.

Design winners are selected each year by a committee comprised of Native American artists and College Fund and Pendleton staff.

Prizes for the 2023 contest winners include:

Grand Prize Winner:

    • $2,000 cash
    • $5,000 scholarship
    • 6 blankets

Second Place Winner:

    • $500 cash
    • $2,500 scholarship

Third Place Winner:

    • $250 cash
    • $1,500 scholarship

The Many Nations blanket design, created by American Indian College Fund scholar and Dine College student Dustin Lopez. Pendleton Woolen Mills produced the blanket.

The 2022 contest winner and designer of “Many Nations,” Dustin Lopez is a designer, artist, and American Indian College Fund scholar. Lopez previously served as a firefighter for four years until a month-long bout with COVID-19 forced him into early retirement. He spent the next several weeks reflecting before deciding to apply to Diné College. Lopez had already owned his own graphic design/creative company for 14 years by that time but wanted more. Once he completes his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, he plans to transfer into the Master of Fine Arts track with a focus in graphic design and teaching.

Lopez’s award-winning blanket design, Many Nations, is meant to represent the identity crisis felt by Indigenous people who are descendants of more than one tribe or who have some non-Native ancestry. An indigenized version of DNA frames the initials ‘M’ and ‘B’ to create a symbol for ‘mixbloods.’ The hourglass shape represents the Tsiiyéeł, a symbol to honor the Navajo matriarch society. A serape layout honors the Yaqui, and turquoise symbolizes the Pueblo of Laguna. This blanket, along with many of Lopez’s other designs, was partly inspired by the acceptance he found in the powwow circle. “In powwow, we have many ‘inter-tribal’ dances, and we normally dance for prayer. It was in that arena that I learned to embrace my nations as I would the dances with a full heart and open mind.”

About Pendleton Woolen Mills—Pendleton Woolen Mills is a heritage brand and the leader in wool blankets, apparel, and accessories. Weaving in Oregon since 1863 and located in Portland, Oregon, Pendleton weaves iconic designs in two of America’s remaining woolen mills, located in Pendleton, Oregon and Washougal, Washington. With six generations of family ownership, Pendleton is focused on their “Warranted to Be a Pendleton” legacy, creating quality lifestyle products with timeless classic styling. Inspiring individuals from the Pacific Northwest and beyond for over 150 years, Pendleton products are available at Pendleton stores across the U.S., select retailers worldwide, and at

About the American Indian College Fund — The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 34 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $17.4 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2022-23. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $319 million in scholarships, programs, community, and tribal college support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

Journalists: The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.

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Jasmine Neosh (Menominee), University of Michigan law student, College of Menominee Nation alumna, and American Indian College Fund student ambassador says, “I vote so that the people who make the change that our communities need have the best possible partners in that fight. While real change often comes through the work of organizers and boots on the ground, the people that we elect can either be our allies or our opposition. Either way, having some say in that choice seems like our responsibility as future ancestors.”