Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN The Michigan Indian Education Council presented its annual Distinguished Service Award at the conclusion of the Native American Critical Issues conference at the Marriot East Lansing at University Place at Michigan State University on Saturday.
Joseph Webster - Creek
The winner was Joseph Webster, who is a member of the Upotoi-Muskogee Band of Creek Indians which is located north of Columbus, Georgia. He graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelors degree in Sociology and Psychology as well as a Masters in Social Work in Community Organization, and he has done course work at Cooley Law School. Webster served in the US Air Force near the end of the Korean War, in the Army Reserve later on, and retired with a rank of colonel.
Growing up in Detroit, Webster was taught about his African American culture, but he wasn't aware of his Native American heritage. It wasn't until it was mentioned by a neighbor that he learned of the second part of his family background.
“It was a big secret in my family,”
“I didn't find out until talking to my neighbors. They said we were Indians and I said, 'What?'”
He has spent most of his life since then learning about his American Indian roots. He was taught the old ways by his grandmother and continues to hold them close to his heart.
One difference Webster noticed between United States and American Indian culture is the difference in treatment veterans are given in their respective cultures. In American culture, Webster said veterans aren't always given the respect they deserve, as opposed to Native American culture where veterans are revered.
“A lot of people don't understand the relationship (of veterans in Native American culture), and I think it's important that they do,”
“We have a dance for veterans (where) we stop (in the middle of the dance) and people come and shake our hands.”
Webster is known as a compassionate, generous member of the Native community in Southeastern Michigan. He serves as the Director of Behavioral Health at the American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit and as a volunteer throughout the community. Joe brings extensive life experience to his work. He previously worked for many years in the Department of Social Services for the State of Michigan, for the governor's office and the Department of Commerce.
Joe is very involved in the Native community as a board member for both the Nokomis Learning Center and the Woodland Indian Center. He provides support for programming to assist Native peoples through his words of wisdom, helping hands, loving smile and generous donations.
Webster's volunteer services have extended to a number of other organizations including Loaves and Fishes Homeless Shelter, Black Child and Family Institute, Lansing North American Indian Center, Capitol Child Development Center, the Lansing/Jackson NASW Chapter, Attorney General's Trust Fund, White House Conference on Children, and the Michigan Committee of Poverty Effects on Youth. Joe spends his spare time with his five rambunctious granddaughters.
posted March 15, 2012 6:59 am edt
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