Published September 21, 2017
TULSA – A world-renowned activist for Native American rights, LaDonna Harris will accept the third annual Oklahoma Changing World Prize on Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa. The Oklahoma Changing World Prize is given annually by the Woody Guthrie Center, presented in 2017 by the Chickasaw Nation.
“The Woody Guthrie Center is proud to recognize the work of LaDonna Harris with the Oklahoma Changing World Prize,” said Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud. “As an advocate for equality, peace, and social justice, Ms. Harris follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie as a guiding force for positive change in our world.”
Harris, a citizen of the Comanche Nation, is a human rights activist and civil rights leader. As president and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity, Harris has brought Native American issues to a national stage. She has been active in the environmental, world peace, and women’s rights movements. Harris recently served as an Honorary Co-Chair for the Women’s March on Washington in January.
Born in Cotton County, Okla., Harris was raised by her maternal grandparents. After helping to integrate the town of Lawton, Okla., Harris founded the first statewide Indian organization—Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity. While married to U.S. Sen. Fred Harris (D-OK 1964-73), she became the first senator’s wife to testify before a congressional committee. Throughout her career, Harris served on many national boards, like the Girl Scouts, National Organization of Women, Independent Sector, and five U.S. Presidents appointed her to commissions, including U.S. Representative to UNESCO. She has influenced the struggle for social justice nationally and internationally, and her work changed the country’s perception of contemporary Native peoples, providing an influence on laws and lawmakers that still guides federal Indian policy.
LaDonna Harris, proud Comanche
“This is a very special honor because Woody is a hero of mine and I think Woody and I have a lot in common,” said Harris. “Woody shared many of my Comanche Indian values–a kinship with all humans and with Nature; that everybody has Medicine – an inner personal strength and unique talents; and a shared responsibility to nurture that Medicine, to care for our kinfolk and our neighbors.” Harris continues, “Woody believed, as I do, that to achieve social justice and true equality, we must have a more fair and equitable redistribution of wealth and opportunity in this Changing World.”
The Oklahoma Changing World Prize is inspired by Woody Guthrie’s lyrics to his song “Changing World”: “Change the pen and change the ink/Change the way you talk and think…Change the ways of this changing world.” Previous honorees include Samantha Elauf and Sharon and Mary Bishop-Baldwin.
Harris is the founder and President of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), which advances the rights of Indigenous, peoples in the United States and around the world. AIO draws upon traditional Indigenous philosophies to foster a network of value-based leaders, spark and sustain stakeholder-driven solutions, and, for over 45 years, AIO continues to coordinate visionary leaders and progressive organizations in a national Indigenous movement to address the challenges of the new century. Governed by a Board of international Indigenous leaders, AIO also seeks to create innovative international Indigenous interactions that contribute Indigenous worldviews to the global discussion. AIO is a national nonprofit organization, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information: www.aio.org.
For more information about the Woody Guthrie Center: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.woodyguthriecenter.org 102 East Brady Street, Tulsa, OK 74103, 918-547-2710.