LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 premiered Friday, October 31, 2014.
About the Program
“Traditionally, one became a strong person in order to give back to the community. The community nurtured you while you were becoming strong and once this was achieved, you looked for opportunities to give back to the community.” — LaDonna Harris
Thosh CollinsLaDonna Harris: Indian 101 is the story of Comanche activist Ladonna Harris who led an extensive life of Indian political and social activism and is now passing on her traditional cultural and leadership values to a new generation of emerging indigenous leaders.
LaDonna Harris was raised during the Great Depression — also a time of extreme change in Indian Country. The introduction of land allotments, boarding schools and the urban relocation program was successfully assimilating the Indian into white society. The complete destruction of a culture was in full force.
During this time, the shy, reserved farm girl from Walters, Oklahoma, grew up watching and listening to people, both Indian and non-Indian — quietly studying their body-language and interests. She soon would use her knowledge of cultural differences coupled with her strong Comanche values in a way that would later make her one of the foremost activists for indigenous people’s rights.
A Closer Look
When she met and married a young, white, up-and-coming politician, Fred Harris, she quickly realized she was not destined to be another quiet politician’s wife who sat on the sidelines. After being rejected membership by the Junior League of Oklahoma because of her Comanche ethnicity, LaDonna began her first major foray into American Indian activism by starting a national organization — Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO).
Uninterested in the limited role of the typical mid-century woman, LaDonna began an extensive, inspiring and influential life of Indian political and social activism. Never forgetting her Comanche culture and upbringing, she worked diligently for the rights of her people.
After moving to the District of Columbia, she was immediately welcomed into the Oval Office by President Lyndon B. Johnson and began teaching “Indian 101” to members of Congress — an assignment lasting over 30 years. While serving on many committees and advisory boards, LaDonna went on to help return land to several Alaskan tribes and the Taos Pueblo tribe of New Mexico, formed the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Urban Coalition, and helped the Menominee Tribe gain federal recognition. LaDonna even made a run for Vice-President in 1980 on the environmentalist Citizens Party ticket. In more recent years, her organization has created an ambassadors program that mimics her rise through the political landscape by bringing young professional Indians to the capital and abroad to become ambassadors of their nation.
LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 is a chronicle of her life as a Comanche activist. The film not only outlines her accomplishments, but also her struggles, and her deep-rooted Comanche philosophy that helped shape her worldviews and led her to become a passionate, tireless advocate for the underserved.
LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 was produced by Naru Mui Films, LLC and Vision Maker Media.