Waahlaal Gidaak Barbara Blake wrote -
In 1993, Americans for Indian Opportunity launched the Ambassadors Program to foster leadership growth among the Native American community. A prestigious group of Advisors and the AIO Board designed the Ambassadors Program to help early to mid-career Native American professionals strengthen, within an Indigenous cultural context, their ability to improve the wellbeing and growth of their communities.
The Ambassadors Program is the first leadership initiative in the United States encouraging participants to weave their respective traditional tribal values into a contemporary reality. The Ambassadors Program provides a creative combination of mentorship, personal reflection, dialogue with national and international decision-makers, community involvement, communications training, and a discovery process into tribal values. While participating for two years, the Ambassadors remain in their communities and come together for four gatherings in communities across the United States and at least one Indigenous community outside the United States, focusing on the individual, the community, the tribe, Native American issues and international Indigenous concerns.
The Program is organized around four basic core cultural values, the 4 R’s:
- Relationships: Kinship - In the most profound sense, we are all related. Humans are not only related to each other but to all things. We are “the very stuff of stars,” meaning we have a kinship with rocks, plants and the Earth.
- Responsibility: Community - We have a duty to care for our relatives. Each human is accountable for the wellbeing of their kin. If we call the earth our mother, then we have an obligation to take care of our mother. We must respect the impact of our lives on the natural and social environments.
- Reciprocity: Interconnectedness – Our relationships and responsibilities shape our roles in life and are reciprocal as is the nature of the Universe. Articulation and an understanding that all things are connected and cyclical are fundamental in knowing how we fit into the Universe.
- Redistribution: Generosity – Our reciprocal relationships and responsibilities guides us to share our resources. The collective and communal traditions of our ancestors teach us that wealth must be shared for the greater good of the whole. In contemporary society that includes the sharing of information, knowledge and resources.
AIO’s American Indian Ambassadors Program is an award-winning project that brings together sixteen emerging leaders from throughout the world in a two-year program that focuses on leadership development. The Ambassadors will engage in an international gathering in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The international trip will be an opportunity for us to learn about the issues facing the indigenous people of Aotearoa, exchange ideas and philosophies, and gain a new perspective on the issues our communities are facing here.