Known for her lifelong devotion to teaching and preserving the Kiowa language, author and educator Alecia Keahbone Gonzales died on April 22.
Born in Ft. Cobb, the Kiowa-Apache author and teacher was named the Apache Tribal Princess as a young girl. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented her with a Lifesaving Award. She graduated from the Oklahoma College for Women with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964, then obtained her Master of Arts degree at Southwestern State College in 1974. She received a second master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Oklahoma and pursued further post-graduate studies at Arizona State and Utah State universities.
In 2001, Gonzales, in conjunction with the USAO Foundation, published Thaun Khoiye Tdoen Gyah: Beginning Kiowa Language, the first Kiowa language textbook to be certified for use in the Oklahoma school system. In 2010, Gonzales recorded a 12-hour video companion series to the textbook. The series is slated for release later this year.
In recent years, Gonzales had taken legendary Kiowa folk songs and gave them life through children’s storybooks. Printed by USAO, these bilingual children’s books include Little Red Buffalo Song, A Mother Bird’s Song, and Grandma Spider’s Song, among others.
In recognition of her many achievements as both an alumna and an educator, Gonzales was inducted into the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005.
USAO President Dr. John Feaver observed Gonzales’ passing with profound sadness, noting that, “Alecia Gonzales’ life embodied every value we hope to pass on to our students today — an ambitious studiousness, an unwavering commitment to community and, above all, a kind and generous heart. She will be sorely missed.”