BUSINESS: American Indian College Fund Names Chelysa Owens Cyr Winner Of The 2021 Tribal College Blanket Competition

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The ‘Unity’ design was inspired by the artist’s Lakota culture and roots.

November 16, 2021 18: 00 ET | Source: American Indian College Fund

Denver, Colo., Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills, the international lifestyle brand headquartered in Portland, Oregon, have selected Chelysa Owens-Cyr’s “Unity” as its 2021 Tribal College Blanket Contest winner. Chelysa is an American Indian College Fund scholar and a Fort Peck Community College student. She studies business administration.

Pendleton creates wool blankets in partnership with the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) for its American Indian College Fund collection. Pendleton also contributed nearly $1. 65 million in higher education support for American Indian and Alaska Native students. The College Fund and Pendleton launched the Tribal College Blanket Design Contest in 2020 to further elevate the voices, work, and representation of tribal college and university (TCU) students while providing additional scholarship opportunities. Owens-Cyr’s design was chosen as the second winner of the annual competition.

Owens-Cyr says the design represents unity with the border comprised of multiple Lakota-style geometric tipis depicting a village. The squares are the families or people who live in the village. Geometric morning stars are visible above the tipis and the faded yellow-to-orange background symbolises sunrise. Owens-Cyr says the overall design depicts how nature and Native people are one. The lightning on the horse symbolizes speed and agility. The circle around the horse’s eye shows strong vision. Owens-Cyr says the overall design depicts how nature and Native people are one, which inspired the title “Unity.”

Owens-Cyr is a self-taught contemporary ledger artist, bead worker, graphic designer, and painter whose work is influenced by her family and culture. She uses art as a medium to communicate her beliefs, teachings, stories and visions. She stated, “The College Fund helped me a lot through scholarships. Pendleton is a favorite brand of mine. They work closely with artists to achieve [the work] our vision. Because I have always wanted the career of a graphic artist, I am living my dream. It just makes my art journey more enjoyable. I would like to give a huge thank you to Pendleton Woolen Mills and the American Indian College Fund for giving this amazing opportunity to tribal college students and allowing others and me to showcase our art and talents and share our visions with you.”

President Haven Gourneau of Fort Peck Community College said, “It was a proud moment for Fort Peck Community College for Chelysa to be chosen from so many other talented student artists.” She noted that Owens-Cyr also designed the college’s logo, and her artwork is part of the community, social media, and her education. “It’s all part of the circle.”

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “Our students are gifted in their artistic abilities and the College Fund appreciates the opportunity to work with Pendleton to highlight those gifts and to support the resources students need to succeed in college. We are especially appreciative of the abilities of our students to take their life experiences and their cultural knowledge and create beauty that can be shared with others.”

Unity will be available for purchase in spring 2022.

The Tribal College Blanket Design Contest is open to all Native American TCU students. This contest is a high-profile platform that recognizes and develops the work of promising artists. It also raises the voice and representation of Native students through international distribution of products. TCUs are located in rural and remote areas, as well as on Indian reservations. They provide an important link to higher education, career advancement, Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous knowledge for the nation’s most marginalized and under-connected Native communities. The College Fund gives millions to thousands of TCU students every year; the blanket contest increases that support and elevates Native art, culture, stories, and culture.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 Tribal College Blanket Design Contest. Submission guidelines and applications are available on the College Fund’s web site at Native TCU students can submit two designs. No formal artistic training or experience in textile design is required.

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

Grand Prize winners: $2,000 cash, a $5,000 scholarship, and six of the winning blankets.

Second Place winners: $500 cash and a $2,500 scholarship.

Third Place winners: $250 cash and a $1,500 scholarship.

About Pendleton Woolen Mills–Pendleton Woolen Mills is a heritage brand and the leader in wool blankets, apparel, and accessories. Founded in 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. Pendleton, a family-owned business, is committed to their “Warranted to Be a Pendleton” legacy of creating timeless, classic lifestyle products. 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 32 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2020-21. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, program, and community 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. Visit for more information on the American Indian College Fund.

Journalists: The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. Please use the College Fund for your second reference.

Photo 1: Chelysa Owens-Cyr, a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Dakota Sioux/Pasqua First Nations Cree Nations and a college student at Fort Peck Community College in Montana, created “Unity,” the winning design in the American Indian College Fund’s 2021 Tribal College Blanket Contest.

Photo 2: The award-winning Unity blanket design, created by American Indian College Fund scholar and Fort Peck Community College student Chelysa Owens-Cyr. Pendleton Woolen Mills is producing the blanket.

Video: Meet American Indian College Fund scholar Chelysa Owens-Cyr and learn more about her life and the inspiration behind her award-winning Unity blanket design.

Chelysa Owens-Cyr
Unity Blanket

Contact Data

Dina Horwedel American Indian College Fund 303-430-5350

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