The theme for the District’s 2011 Strategic Planning Session Dec. 12 was “Leaving a Legacy,” and session participants were put in the spirit of planning for the future after listening to speaker LaDonna Harris, a resident of New Mexico and historic icon, who has spent years working to better the lives and communities of Native Americans.
Harris talked about how she has dedicated her life and career to improving the quality of life of others. She said some have called her the “Coretta Scott King” of Native American social activism. A native Oklahoma Comanche, Harris was married to former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris and lived in the Nation’s capital when she got her start in public life. It was during the 1960s, and there were many Native American issues in the news. Helping to find resolutions to these issues gained Harris her reputation as a tireless worker. One of the causes she stepped behind from the start was helping the Taos Pueblo regain ownership of Blue Lake after many years of struggle with the U.S. Government, another was fighting for the reinstatement and recognition of the Menominee tribe.
Harris began her discussion with District leadership by reviewing the timeline that motivated her to become a social activist for Native American issues. She then encouraged an interactive discussion about her personal legacy and how she created the vision for her foundation. The session ended with each of the senior leaders developing a personal vision for their legacy within the District and Corps.
Harris’ foundation, Americans for Indian Opportunity, reaches across international boundaries to Native American youth through its Ambassador Program and helps youth engage in their communities as future leaders. Information on the foundation is found at www.aio.org.
Harris’ work is well established and continues to go strong. Her vision is to enhance the future of Native American youth in leadership roles around the world, and she hopes her legacy will be carried on by her daughter, Laura Harris.