LaDonna Harris, President of Americans for Indian Opportunity, is a remarkable statesman and national leader who has enriched the lives of thousands. She has devoted her life to building coalitions that create change. She has been a consistent and ardent advocate on behalf of Tribal America. In addition, she continues her activism in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, the women’s movement and world peace.
Harris began her public service as the wife of U.S. Senator, Fred Harris. She was instrumental in the return of the Taos Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo and to the Menominee Tribe in regaining their federal recognition. In the 1960's, she founded Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity to find ways to reverse the stifling socio-economic conditions that impact Indian communities. From the 1970's to the present, she has presided over Americans for Indian Opportunity which catalyzes and facilitates culturally appropriate initiatives that enrich the lives of Indigenous peoples. Harris also helped to found some of today’s leading national Indian organizations including the National Indian Housing Council, Council of Energy Resource Tribes, National Tribal Environmental Council, and National Indian Business Association.
In 1994, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown appointed her to the Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure. In addition, she was appointed to the following Presidential Commissions: National Council on Indian Opportunity (Johnson); White House Fellows Commission (Nixon); U.S. Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year (Ford); Commission on Mental Health (Carter); and she represented the United States on the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) (Carter). She was a founding member of Common Cause and the National Urban Coalition and is an ardent spokesperson against poverty and social injustice. As an advocate for women’s rights, she was a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1980, as the Vice Presidential nominee on the Citizens Party ticket with Barry Commoner, Harris firmly added environmental issues to national debate and future presidential campaigns.
She currently serves on include the Advancement of Maori Opportunity, National Senior Citizens Law Center and Think New Mexico. She also serves on the following advisory boards: the National Museum of the American Indian; American Civil Liberties Union; National Institute for Women of Color; and the Delphi International Group. For more Information, visit: www.aio.org
Jane Schachat is a former Administrator of North Manhattan for the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation. Her 26-year career with the Parks Department began with positions in Queens and Lower Manhattan. Driven by a desire to learn about and protect the city’s natural areas, she found her way to North Manhattan, where the parks had suffered more than a decade of neglect, including damage done by dumping, unchecked proliferation of invasive species, severe erosion, and the general decline of the city’s neighborhoods.
In her work as the Manager and later as Parks Administrator of North Manhattan (she was the first to hold this title), Schachat redefined the parks in her district and the relationships of local communities to the many diverse landscapes and amenities of these parks. She secured millions of dollars in public and private funding for renovating park infrastructures and reimagining existing facilities and public programs. At a time when it was unsafe to venture deep into many parks, she helped redefine these parks as true neighborhood spaces. Some of her achievements include: overseeing forest restoration crews while working with the Natural Resources Group; starting programs for volunteers to create a greater feeling of local stewardship over the parks; overseeing the development and design of the Inwood Nature Center in the former Inwood Boathouse; restoring the Heather Garden and the Alpine Garden in Fort Tryon Park; directing the ﬁrst major clean-up of Highbridge Park and the reopening the High Bridge; creating Manhattan’s ﬁrst Mountain Bike Trail in Highbridge Park; establishing Natural History programs along newly-restored pathways through natural areas.
While her tenure saw these and other upgrades in the facilities of the parks she served, Schachat worked to build and better the communities of Northern Manhattan through interaction with the parks. She supported and strengthened existing Friends Groups in some parks while she helped establish new groups in others. Schachat came to know these the parks’ communities through events – spearheading fundraising drives, supporting efforts to improve playgrounds and green spaces, and leading community coalitions to restore once great parks. She was instrumental to the establishment of ongoing programs like A Toast to Tryon, the Medieval Festival, and Drums Along the Hudson. Her role has been as an advocate, a leader, and a friend to those who live and play in Northern Manhattan’s gardens, waterfronts, pools, playing ﬁelds, and natural areas.
Jane Schachat holds a BA in English from Barnard College and a Masters degree in Art and Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her claywork has been shown in prominent galleries and exhibitions throughout the country. In addition to her work with the NYC Parks Department, she has taught Pottery at Barnard College for over thirty years. She has worked prominently as a photographer, chronicling the projects and seasons of Manhattan Parks in her work and photographing natural landscapes throughout the country. Her passion for nature and photography has frequently taken her to the Hudson Valley, where in 2003 she started Chestnut Trees Farm. Today, she is working to replant part of the previously abandoned orchard, to farm biodynamically and to inﬂuence food policy.