Three New Mex­ico trail­blaz­ers re­ceive honor

The Taos News - - REGIONAL - By Sarah Halasz Gra­ham sgra­ham@sfnewmex­i­can.com

Over the course of her 87 years, Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tivist LaDonna Har­ris has cam­paigned to be vice pres­i­dent of the United States, helped re­turn fed­eral land to Taos Pue­blo and served on com­mis­sions ap­pointed by five pres­i­dents.

But her proud­est ac­com­plish­ment, her daugh­ter Laura Har­ris said, has been men­tor­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans early in their ca­reers.

“She be­lieves in re­plac­ing her­self,” Laura Har­ris said. “That’s one of her core in­dige­nous val­ues, is to find and nur­ture the up­com­ing lead­ers to take her place.”

The el­der Har­ris, an Al­bu­querque res­i­dent and a mem­ber of the Comanche tribe, was among 12 Na­tive Amer­i­can trail­blaz­ers -- in­clud­ing three from New Mex­ico -- in­ducted into the newly formed Na­tional Na­tive Amer­i­can Hall of Fame Oct. 13 in Phoenix.

Har­ris was in­tro­duced by a hand­ful of the 250 peo­ple for whom she has served as a men­tor.

“She was thrilled and very hon­ored, es­pe­cially to be a part of this first co­hort,” Laura Har­ris said. “Al­most all of her life she’s been an ac­tivist for hu­man rights. It’s just nice to be rec­og­nized for it.”

Renowned Na­tive artist Al­lan Houser, who lived in Santa Fe un­til his death in 1994, and Pulitzer Prize-win­ning Santa Fe writer N. Scott Mo­ma­day also were in­ducted. The New Mex­ico trio joined a who’s who of na­tive in­no­va­tors liv­ing and dead in­clud­ing prima bal­le­rina Maria Tallchief, foot­ball and track and field star Jim Thorpe and NASA as­tro­naut John Her­ring­ton, the first en­rolled mem­ber of a Na­tive Amer­i­can tribe to fly in space.

Mon­tana res­i­dent James Parker Shield, of the Lit­tle Shell Chippewa and Cree tribes, is the founder and CEO of the hall of fame. He said he came up with the idea about 10 years ago.

“Amer­i­cans are do­ing a bet­ter job of rec­og­niz­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans -- that we’re still here, that we sur­vived,” he said. “But typ­i­cally when there’s at­ten­tion paid ... it’s usu­ally to the same cast of char­ac­ters from the In­dian war days.”

In­stead of hon­or­ing those long-gone he­roes of yore, Shield de­cided to fo­cus on more con­tem­po­rary hon­orees from the Civil War to to­day.

The hall of fame will in­duct new mem­bers each year, he said. And un­til the group can af­ford a build­ing, it is work­ing to put on a trav­el­ing ex­hibit to ed­u­cate vis­i­tors -- in­clud­ing young Na­tive Amer­i­cans -- about these ac­com­plished in­di­vid­u­als.

“In our In­dian com­mu­ni­ties and reser­va­tions, there are so many things our young peo­ple are fac­ing that are chal­lenges, whether it’s sui­cide, ab­duc­tion of young women, the opi­oid cri­sis,” Shield said.

“We feel our Na­tive Amer­i­can Hall of Fame will pro­vide good news and hope­fully in­spi­ra­tion to our young peo­ple.”

Cour­tesy photo

Al­lan Houser

Cour­tesy photo

LaDonna Har­ris

Cour­tesy photo

N. Scott Mo­ma­day

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