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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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UNL Professor to Receive Civil Rights Award
by MARK ANDERSEN - Lincoln Journal Star

Slowly, but deliberately, earn the trust of Native American people, never promise the impossible, and "let native people participate in their story as fully as possible," said author and journalist Joe Starita.

Then, stand aside.

"Get out of the way of the narrative," he said of his writing. "Let their story come to the reader as directly as possible without my fingerprints."

Starita hopes to do the same in Chicago on July 1, by accepting a civil rights award from the National Education Association on behalf of Native women whose vital histories mostly have been neglected.

"As a teacher and writer, Joe Starita shares the unsung achievements of Native Americans," said association President Dennis Van Roekel. "His books are a must-read to better understand Native Americans, their heritage and their contributions to American life and history."

Starita is the author of "I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice," the 2010 One Book - One Lincoln selection, and "The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey," a 1996 Pulitzer nominee.

It is native women who as poets, leaders, teachers, warriors and mothers have kept their culture going, Starita said.

"A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women lay on the ground," he said, quoting a Northern Cheyenne proverb.

"I want to accept this award on behalf of all the Winona LaDukes, Wilma Mankillers, Vida Stablers and Judi gaiashkiboses."

Only a strong culture could survive the maladies thrust upon Natives: disease, massacre, starvation, alcoholism, unemployment.

"And it is those very women who century after century were the glue that kept this culture intact," said Starita, a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

In 2009, Starita began the "Native Daughters" project as a way to help students examine the roles Native American women have played in Indian history, culture, art, medicine and politics.

He hopes these stories and today's generation of Native women will inspire "that 16-year-old girl on the Winnebago Reservation who might be tempted to lay her heart on the ground" and give up, but won't because she is inspired by Danelle Smith, a Winnebago woman attorney at a powerful Omaha law firm.

Starita will be honored with the Leo Reano Memorial Award at the National Education Association's annual Human and Civil Rights Awards dinner.

Leo Reano (1922-1971) was a teacher, artist and interpreter who dedicated his life to securing educational opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native children.

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