Marcus Harrison, Jr. (Comanche) – Former Chief Executive Officer of Native Health, located in Phoenix, Arizona was instrumental in arranging the community Talking Circles in 2004 that led to the first Urban American Indian Disability & Vocational Rehabilitation Summit the following year, and continues successfully each year since then, now known as the American Indian Disability Summit. Mr. Harrison was a leader in the community and strongly advocated for those who needed a voice. The Marcus Harrison, Jr. Leadership Award was established to acknowledge others working to keep that voice of advocacy for Americans Indians with disabilities alive through his/her leadership and dedication.

The 2015 American Indian Disability Planning Committee is very proud to announce the recipient of the 2015 Marcus Harrison Jr. Leadership Award Recipient.


Veronica “Ronnie” James is a resident of Second Mesa, Arizona. As the parent of a daughter with VATER Syndrome – a diagnosis characterized by multiple disabilities affecting the limbs and internal organs – Ms. James knows firsthand the challenges associated with caregiving and advocacy. She has turned that knowledge into a commitment to serve the Hopi Tribe, as well as all of Arizona’s Native Americans, by improving tribal members’ awareness of the disability resources available to them and increasing state and private agencies’ outreach to those who need their services.

As Ronnie says, “Living with a child born with special health care needs has taught me patience, understanding and empowerment.” Her community involvement demonstrates this. In addition to her parenting responsibilities, she serves as Secretary of the Hopi Disability Advocacy Group; is a Parent Leader on Hopi issues and needs for Raising Special Kids; serves her daughter’s school, Second Mesa Day School, on the PTO; is a community member of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC), frequently traveling to the Phoenix area for meetings and events; is a Stakeholder in the Hopi Healthy Home Collaboration; serves on the Volunteer/Planning Committee of the Office of Special Needs – Hopi Tribe; and volunteers with the Early Childhood Hopi Network as a Stakeholder for the Association for Supportive Child Care.

Those who have worked with Veronica – whether at ADDPC, the Hopi Disability Advocacy Group, Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona, or any number of other organizations – attest to her peaceful manner and innate determination to achieve progress for American Indians with disabilities. She knows the road is long, but as she is fond of saying, “It only takes one parent or one voice to speak up and make changes for everyone out there.”

In her free time (surprisingly, she has some!) Veronica loves to bake from scratch.

Submitted by Jon Meyers, The Arc of Arizona