(Labor leader & civil rights activist, Delores Huerta & Anna Diaz-Takes the Shield)
Anna Diaz-Takes The Shield (Oglala Lakota), Student at Oglala Lakota College
Interview by Jesse Antoine Short Bull
With NYLA Anna Diaz-Takes the Shield vision extends beyond her community, she wants to support individuals tackling issues in each district of the Oglala Lakota Nation to promote a better quality of life. Anna’s personal philosophy keeps things simplified with a realistic approach and “can do” attitude. “Nyla has been a great support system for me, and I have reached the point where it’s time for me to give back.”
Anna has just completed a 14 hour day operating the controls as a fire dispatcher in Eagle Butte, South Dakota on a rainy September day. She is working a two week straight appointment in the northern plains, 3 and half hours from her home and family in Oglala which is in the southwestern corner of the state.
Fire season in South Dakota can be hectic, the lush spring growth is cured and dry and the threat of a fire is always around the corner. A dispatcher is critical when an emergency breaks out. The pressure rises when handling the logistics of getting the right people at the scene as soon as possible. For Anna it’s another opportunity to serve people, a passion she has been devoted to pursuing. In addition to being a dispatcher she has spent the summer becoming a member of the Pine Ridge Firefighter hand crew which fights wildland fires at home and across the country.
What’s amazing is this just one aspect of Anna’s life; she has a lot more on her plate. In addition to working wildland fires, she is also the youngest Native American elected official serving as county commissioner of her home county (Shannon County) which serves some 14,000 plus residents. Anna is also on the ballot as a state representative for South Dakota, where she would take her service for the people to the next level if elected and doing all of this while being a full time mom to three children. Most importantly is Anna’s main academic goal of obtaining a Bachelors in Social Work. Anna is in full force this semester at Oglala Lakota College where she is specializing in chemical dependency counseling. Her focus is fueled by her passion to help those in need.
Everything that Anna does require leadership skills and I asked her where those values come from. “My leadership values stem from my grandparents who raised me. They would do a lot for the community and never expected anything in return. A good leader comes from a strong family.” What Anna’s grandparents Lillian and Pedro Sharpfish instilled in her is not only a prime example of Lakota leadership, it is also a model of leadership that can be found in indigenous communities across the country and it is the fiber that makes up the foundation for the Native Youth Leadership Alliance which Anna is a co-founding member.