Comanche activist LaDonna Harris is the founder and president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, an organization whose mission “advances, from an Indigenous worldview, the cultural, political and economic rights of Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world.” Before that, she acquired an incredible resume of Indigenous activism. From founding Americans for Indian Opportunity to being appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on Indian Opportunity, Harris has been a key figure in fighting for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. Her influence has touched many organizations including the National Indian Housing Council, the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, the National Tribal Environmental Council, and the National Indian Business Association.
Ms. Harris’ Indigenous heritage has always been a part of her life; as a child, she was raised on a farm in a self-governing Indigenous community near Walters, Oklahoma. When she was married to U.S. Senator Fred Harris, she pursued a life of public service but was denied membership into the Junior League of Oklahoma because of her Comanche ethnicity. Ms. Harris didn’t let that stop her, and instead, she began what would be her long history of Indigenous Peoples’ activism by founding the non-profit organization, Americans for Indian Opportunity.
While being married to Senator Harris, and living in Washington D.C., she created the course “Indian 101” and began teaching it to members of Congress at the request of President Johnson. Harris taught “Indian 101” for thirty years, and during that time she advised many institutions on Indigenous Peoples’ rights as well as helping return native lands to many Alaskan and New Mexico tribes. Still an activist and leader as the president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, Harris has helped establish an ambassador program that pulls young professionals to represent their nation.