Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
MANISTEE, MICHIGAN Little River Band of Ottawa tribal citizen William Memberto, more commonly known as Bill, used to joke that he was a hippie activist who became a governmental official. He came of age during the tumultuous 1960s as he discovered who he was as an Anishinabe man.
William Memberto - Little River Band of Ottawa,
Memberto, 66, passed away from congestive heart failure early Tuesday, according to family members.
Born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan, he went on to serve in the US Army from 1963 to 1966. After his military service, Memberto went on to obtain his undergraduate degree in social work from Ferris State University and a Master's of Social Work from Grand Valley State University.
Memberto went to work as a counselor at the now former Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council, the Detroit American Indian Center, Ferris State University and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
During a great share of the 2000s, Memberto served as the director of Native American Affairs, State of Michigan. He retired late last year as the director of the Little River Band of Ottawa's Family Services, based in Manistee, Michigan.
Throughout his career, he found time to serve the American Indian community in various capacities. He was appointed by Michigan Governor James Blanchard to serve as a member of the Michigan Commission on Indian Affairs. During the late 1990s, he was elected as a tribal councilor for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
Memberto's passion in social work led him to his passion for Indian child welfare. Throughout his counseling career, he was an adamant supporter of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
I started working for Little River at the same time Bill was there. We served on the Tribal Council together. We worked countless meetings on Indian child welfare policy. We worked family services together. We worked cases and found new ways to offer services to families when the money wasn't there. We built relationships with the state that directly impacted how our families were managed in the system,
commented Kimberly Crampton, a former Little River Band tribal councilor.
While the work was important, challenging, rewarding
it's all the laughing we did that I will miss the most. We would always check in with each every now and then.
“Children are gifts from the Creator. They help us learn about who and what we are as parents, human beings and Nations,”
Memberto said during an early intervention trauma based case management training workshop he conducted in May 2010.
Last year near his retirement, Memberto received a national award for his dedicated work in this field from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, based in Portland, Oregon.
During several decades, Memberto drummed and sang with two groups: Red Eagles and Two Hawks.
“We were sitting around the fire we have going for my Uncle Bill. We figured there have been 15 different drums that came out of those two drums,”
reflected Robert Memberto, director of Commerce of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
Memberto was preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Grace (Swartz) Memberto, his older brother Joseph James Memberto Jr., and his nephew Bradley Ronald Memberto; along with many loved aunts and uncles. He is survived by his daughter Angie and Mike Turner with grandchildren Alyssa and Cameron; his daughter Julie and Brandon Davis with grandson Tyler; his son Jean Gui and Tina Collins and his grandchildren Joyce, Annalisa, Solomon, and Bernarda; along with his great-grandson Santiago Collins; Step-son Jeff Dowdy & family; His younger brother Phillip Robert Memberto; along with nephews:: Brian D. Memberto, Robert Joseph Memberto, Robert Craig Memberto, Phillip Robert Martinez and Gabriel Memberto, nieces Talia (Memberto) Hutson, Regina (Martinez) Manske, Arianne Memberto, Georgianna (Memberto) Walkington, Kasey Ann McCullough, and Lily Memberto; and many great nephews and nieces, drum brothers, nieces and nephews of Indian country.
A memorial service for William Memberto on Saturday, September 15, at 2:00 pm edt, at the Aki Community Center, 2953 Shaw Be Quo Ung, Manistee Michigan 49660. A visitation hour will be held from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm edt.
posted September 13, 2012 7:10 am edt