Nebraska’s Professor Joe Starita has been selected as the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA) 2017 Chief Standing Bear Humanitarian Award recipient.
Starita is a professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. The award recognizes a lifetime of telling the stories of the First Peoples of the Plains. Starita’s relentless research, passion and creative work have earned him the trust and respect of Native people throughout Nebraska and the United States. The compelling stories he has written have added immeasurably to our society’s understanding of the history, culture and relevance of America’s first people. His dedication to telling these stories is evidenced by the thousands of miles he has traveled along Nebraska’s highways and rural backroads, sharing these stories with groups large and small not only to educate, but to raise funds for scholarships for Native students giving them opportunity to achieve their educational dreams.
Before joining the journalism faculty in 2000, Starita spent 13 years at the Miami Herald and served as the paper's New York bureau chief from 1983-1987. He also spent four years on the Herald's investigations team, where he specialized in stories exposing unethical doctors and lawyers.
Interested in American Indian history and culture since his youth, Starita returned to his native Nebraska in 1992 and began work on a three-year book project about five generations of an Indian family. "The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge - A Lakota Odyssey" was published in 1995 by G.P. Putnam and Sons (New York), has been translated into six foreign languages and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
For the past 10 years, he has taught many of the journalism college’s depth reporting classes. Two of his classes, Native Daughters I and Native Daughters II focused on Native American women.
In 2009, St. Martin's Press published Starita's "I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice," a book on the life and death of Standing Bear, the Ponca chief who, in 1879, unwittingly ended up in the crosshairs of a landmark federal legal case. That book was the One Book-One Lincoln selection for 2011 and the One Book-One Nebraska pick for 2012. In July 2011, Starita received the Leo Reano Award, a national civil rights award, from the National Education Association for his work with the Native American community.
Starita’s most recent book, “A Warrior of the People,” tells the story of Susan La Flesche, the first Native American doctor. La Flesche became a doctor 31 years before women could vote and 35 years before Native Americans were considered U.S. citizens.
Starita will be presented his award at the 2017 Chief Standing Bear Breakfast on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 a.m. at Embassy Suites Ballroom, 1040 P St., Lincoln. The event honors and celebrates Chief Standing Bear’s enduring message of “Equality before the Law” on the 138th anniversary of the Standing Bear v. Crook decision.