Okla. Lifelong educator and Kiowa-Apache author Alecia Keahbone
Gonzales will be honored once again for her contributions to those
around her. Gonzales was selected as the recipient of the Oklahoma
Humanities Councils 2009 Public Humanities Award.
award honors an individual scholar responsible for outstanding public
humanities programming in a library, museum, historical society
or other cultural institution. Recipients are scheduled to be honored
March 7 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
2000, Gonzales welcomed 17 Kiowa students to the first Yee Pay
Gyan Aim (two ways of thinking), a pilot course funded
by the Oklahoma Humanities Council. This Kiowa Clemente Course was
an outgrowth of the original Clemente Course taught in New York
City in 1995.
original Clemente Course aimed to empower inner city residents by
teaching them a traditional Western humanities curriculum. Because
of Gonzales input as a member of the original curriculum planning
committee, the course became bicultural. The course now provides
a unique presentation of Kiowa culture with Western humanities.
of the first nights of the Kiowa Clemente Course in the Humanities,
there was to be a class in the Kiowa language for the Kiowa students.
Mrs. Gonzales took her place in a circle of tables. She spoke very
softly to them and the room became ordered, said Earl Shorris,
president of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, Inc.
all the men and women in the room, Alecia Gonzales was the one who
said by her well chosen wardrobe and serious, almost stern demeanor,
that she would lead. She was the beautiful one and, without saying
so, told them that the beauty they saw and the stern demeanor was
Kiowa. She spoke to them in Kiowa and they did not understand. Then
she said the word for grandmother and for a little while she did
not speak any words, she hummed. And soon they were humming with
she began singing softly in Kiowa and they also sang. The words
came to them. She had found the cradle of culture everyone
knew. The class was begun, Shorris said.
is known for her devotion to teaching and preserving the Kiowa language
as an author and educator. She has been a speech pathologist, a
dean of student services and a guidance counselor.
in Ft. Cobb, the Kiowa-Apache author and teacher was surrounded
by a mixture of Kiowa and American cultures. She was Apache Tribal
Princess as a young girl. In the 1950s, Gonzales presented The
Lords Prayer in Indian sign language on the first color
television broadcast of The Dave Garraway and Arlene Francis
Show. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented her with
a lifesaving award. She graduated from the Oklahoma College for
Women (now USAO) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965; she then
obtained her Master of Arts degree at Southwestern State University
work has made her a celebrity of sorts for her knowledge and enthusiasm
about Kiowa history. In fact, visitors to the Smithsonians
National Museum of the American Indian in Washington hear Gonzales
voice in recorded segments on an audio tour. Museum officials chose
only one voice to represent each of five geographic areas in America.
For the central United States, they chose Gonzales.
may have secured the Kiowa languages future and created a
veritable template for other American Indian tribes to use for sustaining
their own languages with the 2001 release of her book Thaun
Khoiye Tdoen Gyah: Beginning Kiowa Language the first
of its kind in America.
addition to the language textbook, Gonzales has taken legendary
Kiowa folk songs and given them life through childrens storybooks.
These bilingual books include Little Red Buffalo Song,
A Mother Birds Song, Grandma Spiders
Song, Grandmothers Song and The Prairie
Dog Song. Her books are sold in the USAO Bookstore.
has taught Kiowa language classes at USAO and continues teaching
at Anadarko High School, where she approaches the Kiowa language
from a bicultural viewpoint using two distinctly different
has also been a member of various groups, such as the Oklahoma Federation
of Indian Women, the National Education Association and the Caddo
County Education Association. She was the 1993-94 recipient of the
Indian Woman of the Year award and was inducted into the USAO Alumni
Hall of Fame in 2005.
was honored by the American Association of Retired People in 2008,
along with 49 other Oklahomans, who have made a difference in the
lives of others or in their communities. Other honorees included
former governor George Nigh, world-famous entertainer Roy Clark
and three American Indian chiefs.