AIO Ambassadors meet Morales

LaDonna Harris, AIO President and Founder - stands with Bolivian President Evo Morales in the backyard of his Presidential

Special to News From Indian Country - Photo by Jeff Liu
Albuquerque, New Mexico (ICC) 7-07

Bolivian President Evo Morales‚ (Ayma) United Nations Address calling for “partners, not bosses” was being answered during July as a group of Native Americans, representing Americans for Indian Opportunity‚s (AIO) Ambassadors Program, traveled to Bolivia. AIO was joined by Indigenous representatives of its sister organization from New Zealand, the Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO).

The week long gathering, June 9-19, 2007, incorporated meetings with President Morales, Congressional officials, and local NGO's

AIO took the Native American and Maori Ambassadors to Bolivia in the hopes of promoting an international Indigenous exchange.

“It is essential for these young Indigenous people to meet with President Morales, a leader of international stature and the first Indigenous leader of Bolivia. We are committed to helping build his vision of an international Indigenous network,” said LaDonna Harris (Comanche), President of AIO.

The group engaged in an intensive day long discussion with other Bolivian leaders and the Federation of Allyus in Northern Potosí to explore pathways for creating an international network of Bolivian, Maori and Native American leaders.

Both President Morales and the Federación del Tropico de Cochabamba were honored with separate AIO awards at receptions in La Paz and Cochabamba. The latter will be given the Taos Blue Lake Spirit of Indigeneity Award and the Former the AIO Peace Pipe Award and a traditional Maori war club from AMO.

“President Morales you bring pride to us all,” said LaDonna Harris (Comanche), AIO Founder and President when handing him the AIO Peace Pipe Award.

“The AIO Peace Pipe Award is in recognition of President Morales being the highest ranking Indigenous elected leader in the Americas and for his work toward creating an international network of Indigenous peoples,” says Laura Harris (Comanche), AIO Executive Director.

The Maori sang President Morales into the room on July 9 and presented him with their highest honor, a toki - a traditional axe used to carve canoes. Bentham Ohia, AMO President, stated, “This is for you to carve the new canoe to bring Indigenous peoples together to share our values.”

Each Native American representative, shared a song or gift from their tribe with him also, and the President in return shared his experience of being Indigenous and a politician saying, “People in this country believed an Indigenous person couldn’t be President,” and later, “Politics is a science of serving people.”

After the initial meeting, the group was invited to be guests of President Morales at his residence in La Paz where the President stated that after this international Indigenous meeting, he was off to host a meeting of the Andean countries’ Presidents.

The new design of the Taos Blue Lake Spirit of Indigeneity Award was unveiled during this trip. Created in 2005, Native artist Bob Haozous (Apache) designed a sculpture in 2007, to reflect the award’s intent to honor those who have made positive change in their communities by relying on their traditional cultural values.

The 2006/07 Class of American Indian Ambassadors is made up of eighteen 25-35 year old Native American professionals, representing eighteen tribes and thirteen states. They work in tribal government, as lawyers, non-profit directors, Ph.D. candidates and museum specialists.

In 2002, after the AIO Ambassadors Program traveled to New Zealand for a similar exchange, the Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO) was created and established an alliance between Maori and Native Americans.

 

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