By Dan Ninham
LeRoy Staples Fairbanks, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, has been appointed to the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors. He lives in Cass Lake, MN, with his family.
“I’ve worked in the various areas in my professional career including construction, human services, and executive leadership positions, but none of these areas were necessarily about youth sport and activity,” said LeRoy Staples Fairbanks. “I’ve spent my entire adult years trying to give back in the areas of youth development, but because it didn’t involve my work, I’ve had to do all in a volunteer status.”
“I’ve tried to identify areas of need and where community programming was falling short in regard to our youth,” added Staples Fairbanks.
“My passion is working with basketball, golf and wrestling, but I understood at a younger age the importance of all sports and physical and extracurricular activities,” said Staples Fairbanks. “I started coaching teams when I was much younger, but as I learned how to organize better, I created the Leech Lakers Youth Sports organization.”
Indigenous leaders use their native core values to define who they are in their career and leadership capacities.
“A value that I prioritize is the value of family,” Staples Fairbanks said. “I am a son, a nephew, an uncle, a brother, a husband, and a father. I take a deep care for my responsibility in each one of those roles. Family is the foundation of everything that I do. When I look at youth in my community, I view them as family, and as family it is our responsibility to care for one another. That is what drives me to do this type of work.”
“My involvement in youth sports and also my work in policy development was the qualifying factors why I was selected for the position,” said Staples Fairbanks. “The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors is a 22 person board consisting of people from various areas of scholastic and sport in the state, as well as four public representatives appointed by the Governor. I was appointed to a public representative position from 2022-2026.”
Mentors are primary support figures that guide leaders to do the right thing right.
“My mother Bonnie Fairbanks-Stangel is my primary mentor,” said Staples Fairbanks. “She has been the person who has shown me throughout my life, that life is good, and here’s how we can live that good life. She not only talked the talk, but walks it as well. When we want to raise healthy, respectful, decent human beings, we have to show the children by example.”
“I call him Waagosh (fox) … his original name,” said his mom Bonnie Fairbanks-Stangel. “Waagosh has always stood out ever since he was very young. Waagosh really walks his walk with much curiosity about everything. His listening skills are amazing! You always feel heard. The youth are truly in his heart. Amazing heart he has.”
Staples Fairbanks also looks up to his older brother Cedric. He said, “I didn’t have my father in the household very much growing up and Cedric had to take on the role of the ‘man of the house’ at a very young age. He kept me in line and gave me someone to look up to as I grew up. He is also the one I followed along with to the local parks in Minneapolis where we got involved in sports.”
Cedric talked about his brother, saying, “LeRoy always had leadership qualities. After LeRoy IV was born he got married and got his family a house.”
“After his son was old enough to play in basketball tournaments, he started a team in Cass Lake called the Leech Lakers. LeRoy took the duty of coaching them. Today the Leech Lakers are a big part of the community and reservation,” added Cedric.
“Finally I would say my uncle LeRoy Fairbanks was another great mentor for me,” said Staples Fairbanks. “He was someone my family had a deep admiration for, he was a very accomplished man. He served many years in the Navy, and served in three wars. After the military, he came home and helped work in education for the rest of his career back in Leech Lake. He was our Warrior! He is someone I will always strive to be like.”