Director, Division of Indian Work, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches
Mary Ellen Dumas, director since 1981 of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches’ Division of Indian Work (DIW), has worked among Minneapolis Native Americans for 15 plus years, is the 1996 recipient of the David W. Preus Leadership Award.
“Through work that is creatively and quietly effective, Mary Ellen Dumas exhibits the qualities of a servant leader in a superb way,” said Dr. James Shannon, co-chair of the Preus Award Council.
Dumas is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. Born in Minneapolis, she received a B.A. from Lakeland College, Sheboygan, WI, and an M.S.W. from the university of Wisconsin, Prior to 1981, she had spent 18 years in social services for Fond du Lac County, WI.
The program she directed grew into the nation’s largest church-sponsored agency serving urban Indians. With a staff of two dozen, DIW offers programs in youth leadership, teen parenting, family violence, and emergency assistance. DIW moved into a new $3.5 million building at 1001 E. Lake in 1995.
“Mary Ellen understands the needs in the Indian community,” said Dumas’ pastor, Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo of All Nations Indian Church. “She has been innovative in designing programs and working with community leaders, the churches, and the corporate/foundation community to provide much needed services.”
The Rev. Gary Reierson, executive director of the Greater Minneapolis Council, said Dumas’ leadership “effectively meets needs and produces results without her worrying about getting the credit or making a name of for herself or her agency.”