The Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Superior recognizes individuals, alumni, and others who make important and ongoing contributions to their communities. Those who receive this award have given back to their communities far more than they have ever received from it. There couldn’t be a more accurate description of UMD alumnus Leslie Gibbs (‘97, American Indian Studies) who was recently named the 2014 recipient of UWS’ Community Diversity Award.
Gibbs is a strong advocate for higher education, especially for diverse students of all ages and backgrounds.
“I believe in funding relationships with all people and to maintain those relationships respectfully,” he said. “As a Native American, I live each day with a value of treating everybody with respect and dignity.”
A proud, enrolled tribal member of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation, Gibbs was raised and born in Ponemah on the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is a military veteran who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1984 to 1990. He also received his bachelor’s degree from UMD and his Masters of Science and Education degree in 2002 from UWS.
He has worked as an adolescent, mental health and wellness coordinator and therapist with the Red Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. He was crucial in providing and directing crisis counseling support to the Red Lake Nation after the Red Lake school shootings, where three of the victims were relatives. In the aftermath of the shootings, he wanted to assist in reducing the stigma of mental illness in Red Lake, and Ponemah. He admits this was a very difficult and challenging time both professionally and personally. He currently works as a community support program case manager with the Human Development Center in Superior, Wisc., as a mental health therapist.
Gibbs’ work and connection to UW-Superior is spread across many levels. He’s served the college as an ad hoc instructor within the First Nations’ Studies program, an emcee for the Circle of Native Nations Powwow for the past 10 consecutive years, and served for the past two years on a parent panel within the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Making College Accessible program.
His work doesn’t stop there. Gibbs is also an executive board member of the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth, Minn., and previously served on the Minnesota American Indian Health Advocacy Council, the Duluth Human Rights Commission and the Spotted Eagle School Board. He mentored countless American Indian youth throughout his adult career with programs such as the National Indian Youth Leadership Project and the Red Lake Indian Youth Council.
He’s presented on concepts and issues dealing with the American Indian family at many local and regional conferences, such as the Minnesota Mental Health Association, Minnesota American Indian Mental Health Advisory Council, and the St. Louis County Mental Health Conference. He’s also served as part of the Blandin Foundation Community Leadership Training Team.
When it comes to this community involvement, Gibbs gives credit and respect to his wife, Renee, and their daughter, Ravyn, and to their support of his work. He spends his free time golfing, fishing and emceeing powwows.
The Northland News Center also covered the story. Watch the video: