Laura Waterman Wittstock—2006-07 Louis W. Hill, Jr. Fellow

An American Indian author and journalist, who won the 1998 Finnegan Freedom of Information Award for Minnesota, Laura Waterman Wittstock is CEO and president of Wittstock & Associates (a media and education consulting firm), and founder and longtime leader of MIGIZI Communications.

Born to Seneca Nation parents on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York, she grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and attended San Francisco State College. After serving as a copywriter in the retail sector, she moved with her husband and five children to Washington, D.C., where she covered national and regional legislative and judicial proceedings for the American Indian Press Association. Her work there put her in touch with political leaders, including two vice presidents from Minnesota—Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. This work contributed to her strong sense of civic awareness and solid commitment to the freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Since 1973, when Ms. Waterman Wittstock was recruited by a national nonprofit organization to come to Minnesota, she has led various nonprofits, and created MIGIZI Communications, a major publication for the American Indian community in Minnesota.

In 2002, Waterman Wittstock was appointed by Mayor R. T. Rybak to represent him on the Minneapolis Library Board, where she served as president and worked with others on the development and realization of the new Minneapolis Central Library, which opened in May 2006. She is currently an elected Trustee of the Minneapolis Library Board (2005–2009).

She also sits on boards for the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, the (national) Native Technology and Media Network, the Minnesota Planetarium Society, Baby’s Space, Change, Inc., the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, and the Southeast Asian Refugee Community Home (SEARCH).

In addition to being selected a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in 1994, Ms. Waterman Wittstock was awarded the 1992 Human Rights Award (Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee), the Outstanding Achievement Award (Human Services, Minneapolis YWCA) in 1987, and the Excellence in Educational Equity award from the State of Minnesota (1987). In 1992, she was inducted into the Twin Citian Volunteer Hall of Fame (Mpls/St. Paul Magazine), and she received the 1992 National Headliner Award for Outstanding Documentary by a Network.

Her books include Diverse Populations/Diverse Needs: Community Foundations and Diversity and Changing Communities.

Ms. Waterman Wittstock has been recognized nationally and locally for broadcast productions, and for nonfiction and children’s books. Current writing projects include three books in progress. Spurred by her passion for quality community libraries (as evidenced by her leadership on the Minneapolis Library board), she has built small library collections as well, one of which is located at Bemidji State University. She has dedicated herself to helping maintain quality libraries in every community—libraries that are technologically up-to-date, highly functioning and well-performing.

On April 10, 2007, Ms. Waterman Wittstock was the featured speaker at the Louis W. Hill, Jr. Symposium.