Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 25:4 (Fall 2005). Copyright 2005 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


"What is it like to live in a tent?" asked Robert Kennedy's five-year-old daughter, Kerry, when she met LaDonna Harris for the first time in 1965. LaDonna assured her that Indians no longer lived in "tents" and Kerry's mother, Ethel, jokingly told LaDonna not to disillusion the child. LaDonna insisted that she wanted Kerry to have an accurate understanding of what Indians were like, to which Kerry responded by asking if she shot a bow and arrow. The exchange speaks volumes about the ignorance through which mainstream society viewed Native Americans, and mirrored many of Harris's other experiences with the media, the public, and government leaders as she rose from humble origins in the Great Plains to national prominence as a leading advocate of Native American rights in the latter half of the twentieth century.