October 14, 2011
PHOENIX, AZ - LaDonna Harris (Comanche), president of Americans for Indian Opportunity and a nationally-known tribal rights advocate, has been named as the 8th Spirit of the Heard. She will receive her honor in a ceremony on Friday, October 14 at the Steele Auditorium in the Heard Museum.
Dr. Letitia Chambers, president and CEO of the Heard Museum, says, "LaDonna Harris is a nationally and internationally respected advocate on behalf of American Indians. The Heard Museum bestows this award on LaDonna in recognition of her unparallel career working in the cause of native peoples on a local, national, and international basis. In addition, Americans for Indian Opportunity, an organization she founded and led for many years, has provided leadership training over the years to hundreds of young people, many of whom are today's leaders across Indian Country."
Patricia Hibbeler (Salish and Kootenai), Chair of the Heard Museum's American Indian Advisory Committee and a Heard Museum Board of Trustees says, "LaDonna Harris is a tireless fighter for necessary policy change serves as a catalyst for American Indian people. She is an inspiration to all Native women not only through her defense of tribal rights in support Indian Country but also through her influence on civil rights, women's issues and the development of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), a National organization dedicated to developing effective Native leaders."
Each year, the Heard Museum's Board of Trustees American Indian Advisory Committee honors an individual who has demonstrated personal excellence either individually or as a community leader with the Spirit of the Heard Award. The award also reinforces the mission of the museum, which is to educate the public about the heritage and living arts and cultures of Native peoples.
Harris is a remarkable statesman and national leader who has enriched the lives of thousands. She 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.
She was instrumental in the return of the Taos Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo and to the Menominee Tribe in regaining their federal recognition. In the 1960s, Harris founded Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity to find ways to reverse the stifling socio-economic conditions that impact Indian communities. From the 1970s to the present, she has presided over Americans for Indian Opportunity, which catalyzes and facilitates culturally appropriate initiatives that enrich the lives of Indigenous peoples. Harris also help to found some of today's leading national Indian organizations including the National Indian Housing Council, Council of Energy Resource Tribes, National Tribal Environmental Council and National Indian Business Association.
The Spirit of the Heard award ceremony also serves as one of the official kick-off events for the 2011 Native American Recognition Days, held each year in the Phoenix metropolitan area to celebrate Native
For more details, please call 602.252.8840 or visit www.heard.org.