June 9, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, NM, JUNE 9, 2011 - At the start of a warm summer LaDonna Harris, Founder and President of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and Wordcrafter of the Year Award from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, in collaboration with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
The IAIA honored LaDonna Harris, with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual graduation ceremony on May 13, 2011. The national award recognizes individuals and organizations that make significant contributions to the American Indian community. LaDonna was chosen due to her lifelong dedication to American Indian issues in Indian country and her commitment to Native youth leadership development through AIO's Ambassador Program. The program has provided young American Indian leaders to reach their full potential while giving back to the Native community as a whole. IAIA Board of
Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers in collaboration with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma will host Returning the Gift, June 9th through the 11th in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The three-day gathering will bring together Native American writers and storytellers from around the country to celebrate and honor the voices of Indigenous people throughout the world.
The gathering will culminate in the Native Writers Circle of the Americas/Wordcraft Circle Honors and Awards Banquet, posthumously honoring LaDonna Harris with the Wordcrafters of the Year award. Wilma Mankiller and Geary Hobson will also be honored.
For the past 19 years, Returning the Gift has brought together Native American writers and storytellers from around the world to participate in an amazing gathering that brings together professionals and emerging writers and storytellers to share their knowledge, their skills, and their stories. This year's Returning the Gift theme is "Word Crafting Renaissance" to coincide with the revitalization of Wordcraft Circle and its ongoing mission of ensuring that the voices of Native/Indigenous writers and storytellers--past, present, and future--are heard throughout the world.
As a national leader, Harris has influenced the agendas of the civil rights, feminist, environmental and world peace movements. "It is vital that organizations like Wordcraft Circle exist today, because it helps foster the Native voice." states Harris. She has been a fervent support of the arts and is honored to receive the award. The current National Director/President, Lee Francis IV, expressed his gratitude for LaDonna's support in the beginning as his father Lee Francis III founded the organization, "Momma LaDonna has been an inspiration to so many Native people in encouraging our voices, our words, our stories. She had given her passion and energy for so many years, we at Wordcraft, felt it was fitting that she receive this award, that as we are renewing our efforts with the organization, we honor a woman who renews our spirit every day."
LaDonna Harris has devoted her life to building coalitions that create change. She has been a consistent and ardent advocate on behalf of Tribal America. In addition, she continues her activism in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, the women's movement and world peace. From the 1970's to the present, she has presided over AIO which catalyzes and facilitates culturally appropriate initiatives that enrich the lives of Indigenous peoples.