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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 21, 2002 - Issue 70


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The Passing of the Feather:
LaDonna Harris, National Community
Leader To Hand Over 32-Year Legacy

credits: Photo of LaDonna Harris
LaDonna HarrisWASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /U.S. Newsire/ -- All across Indian Country the generation in power is turning over the reins of responsibility to the next generation -- challenging the new leaders to develop initiatives and solutions while continuing the work of their predecessors.

Thus it is that on September 18th, LaDonna Harris (Comanche) -- nationally known activist and advocate of Native American causes -- steps aside as Chief Executive Officer of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) and will pass the feather of leadership to Laura Harris (Comanche) the current Executive Vice President, and her daughter. Americans for Indian Opportunity is a national non-profit the cultural, political and economic self-determination of Indigenous peoples.

Although LaDonna Harris will no longer administer the organization, she will continue to play a critical role as the President of the Board of Directors. She will spearhead AIO's increased work on international issues that affect indigenous peoples. "I will focus my attention on the birth of a transnational network of emerging Indigenous leaders who will be full participants in world affairs. Globalization must not become just another form of colonization," says LaDonna.

"By stepping down as CEO of the organization, LaDonna once again is actively demonstrating and reaffirming her commitment to empowering emerging leaders," says Eddie Tullis, AIO Board Vice President and Chairman of the Poarch Band Creek Indians. "We are proud of how she has grown the organization over the past three decades, and we look forward to a new era with Laura at the helm."

Over the past ten years, LaDonna, through AIO's award-winning American Indian Ambasssadors Program, has taken the lead in facilitating the transition of power to the next generation. The Ambassadors Program is a two-year fellowship that cultivates the skills of emerging Indian leaders, develops tribal values and teaches contemporary global realities.

Throughout her fifty-year career, LaDonna Harris has influenced the agendas of the Native American, civil rights, feminist, environmental and world peace movements. She is a remarkable statesman and national leader who has enriched the lives of thousands. A consistent and ardent advocate of tribal America, she applies much of her energy to reinforcing and strengthening tribal governments. In addition to founding AIO, LaDonna helped establish the National Indian Housing Council and the Women's Political Caucus. Her influence now reaches to the international community to promote peace, as well. She was named U. S. Representative to the OAS Inter-American Indigenous Institute, the U. S. Representative to the United National Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) and currently serves on the board of Women for Meaningful Summits.

Laura Harris, current Executive Vice President and successor to LaDonna, has extensive experience working with advocacy, community activist, and philanthropic organizations. She is a trained facilitator and a frequent public speaker, and has worked on presidential, senatorial, and state and local political campaigns. Laura serves on the national board of the Center for Policy Alternatives, the national Advisory Board for renewing Democracy Through Interracial/Multicultural Community Building, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Laura is also the elected treasurer of the Toyah Band of Comanches of New Mexico. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Harris as a Senior Consultant to the President's Initiative on Race.

"Over the past ten years, we have watched Laura develop the necessary expertise and skills she needs to take over this national organization," adds Chairman Tullies, "first with her work as Projects Director and then as Executive Vice President."

"I am honored that the Board of Directors has confidence in my ability to guide Americans for Indian Opportunity into the future," says Laura. "Today, Native peoples and tribal governments are facing unparalleled challenges - economic, cultural and political. I am fully committed to leading AIO in its effort two work with Tribal America to face these challenges and to find culturally based solutions that will ensure the health, well-being and integrity of Native communities. Change is inevitable. As we have done in the past, Indigenous peoples can use our ancient knowledge to help us adapt to anything."

On September 18, 2002, a prestigious host committee will honor the lifetime achievements of LaDonna Harris and commemorate Laura Harris's new leadership role with a gala celebration at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D. C. Proceeds from the event will benefit AIO's international initiatives.

Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) is a national non-profit advocacy organization headquartered on the Santa Ana Pueblo reservation in New Mexico. The organization draws upon traditional tribal values in its effort to promote innovative problem solving, develop leadership, and create contemporary institutions that can face the challenges of the 21st century. Visit our website at:

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

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