State University student Gabriel Wakanabo, 29, is the Minnesota
Indian Education Associations outstanding post-secondary
education student of the year.
an Oct. 6 ceremony in Tower, Minn., Wakanabo was given a plaque
and a $500 scholarship.
involvement on campus and outreach efforts in the community is why
Don Day, executive director of the BSU American Indian Resource
Center, nominated Wakanabo for the award.
stands out, Day said. He shows really good character.
He is an outstanding student on campus and is a real nice man.
originally from Bemidji and a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe,
graduated from Bemidji High School in 1999 and enrolled at BSU in
2000. One year later he left school to serve in the military with
the U.S. Marine Corps. He returned to BSU in 2007 and has since
been a fulltime student.
2004, Wakanabo was injured while completing his second tour of duty
in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart military award. After returning
home, Wakanabo said he sought help from BSU students who were also
2009, Wakanabo and a handful of other students resurrected the BSU
Veterans Club, which had not been active in many years. At this
years BSU homecoming football game, Wakanabo presented the
colors with BSUs honor guard unit.
was the first time BSU ever had a veterans color guard on
campus, he said. That was a proud moment.
said he enjoys helping others make positive life choices on and
helping others I feel like I plant a seed somewhere, Wakanabo
said. Thats one thing that Ive sort of latched
onto and have a passion for.
is a member of the Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial Board and
is a First Vice Commander with the Ralph Gracie Post 14 American
Legion. In 2009, Wakanabo and a peer started the Greater Bemidji
Veterans Support Group.
a BSU student, Wakanabo started an American Indian radio show on
FM 90, which plays from 9-11 a.m. Mondays. The show features Indian
music, as well as other genres such as of Hawaiian and Alaskan music.
is a junior senator on the BSU Student Senate. He is also the campus
coordinator for the Minnesota State University Student Association.
asked why he is so involved, Wakanabo said:
swore an oath in service, and even though Im not in uniform
anymore, I have a deeper appreciation for what service means,
he said. You can serve your country just by participating
said he feels hes been given a second chance at life after
surviving an explosion in Iraq.
look at it as living on borrowed time, he said Actions
speak louder than words. I want to lead by example.
said he is not yet sure what he wants to pursue after college. He
has a list of possible life paths, including law school, journalism,
becoming a publisher, working for nonprofit organizations, becoming
a grant writer, an entrepreneur or going into politics.