FEBRUARY 16, 2005

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Kiowa folk songs reborn in new storybooks

Kiowa author and educator Alecia Gonzales of Anadarko has released her second book, “The Little Red Buffalo Song,” which comes with an audio CD. This is the first in a series of children’s stories adapted by the author and printed by the University of Science and Arts. Copies are available in the USAO Bookstore.

A Kiowa woman noted as her people’s “Sequoyah” -- a scribe devoted to preserving and teaching a native language in written form -- has taken legendary Kiowa folk songs and is now giving them life through storybooks.

Author Alecia Gonzales has published the first of five books in this unique collection of bilingual children’s stories, printed by the University of Science and Arts in Chickasha.

“Little Red Buffalo Song” is available in the USAO Bookstore.

Gonzales is a woman of Kiowa and Apache descent, born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. At birth, she was given her Kiowa name "Sahmah,” which means, “the lady from the North.”

Preservation of language, culture, and morals are the key components being taught to children and adults alike, through her colorfully illustrated storybooks.

Readers see the story in both Kiowa and English shown parallel to one another. For non-native speakers, a special CD-ROM is included that features the author reading the story in both languages.

“These storybooks are being designed to build the bonds of love and trust between mother and child as they interact together,” Gonzales explained.

“This story is about a mother buffalo and her concerns for her child, ‘Goule-ee,’ to be aware of dangers. This story and this song are used in counseling sessions too.

“This story and these songs that we have are used even into early adulthood,” Gonzales said. “Goule-ee means little red baby buffalo.”

The remaining four books in the collection of Kiowa story-songs, “A Mother Bird’s Song,” “Grandma Spider’s Song,” "Grandmother’s Song,” and “The Prairie Dog Song” are set for release later this spring.

The books are being printed by the University of Science and Arts in Chickasha.

Gonzales, of Anadarko, graduated from the Oklahoma College for Women (now USAO) with a bachelor of arts degree in 1964 and went on to Southwestern State College to obtain her master’s in 1974.

Further graduate studies led Gonzales to the University of Oklahoma as graduate fellow, Arizona State University, and Utah State University.

Gonzales enjoys her roles as mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. But she devotes much of her time to preserving and teaching her language at USAO and Anadarko High School. She also offers in-service training for teachers in the use of her first book.

Since Gonzales’ successful release of her first book, “Thaum Khoiye Tdoen Gyah -- Beginning Kiowa Language” in 2001, she has been honored nationally for her extensive knowledge of her Kiowa heritage. Her first book was praised as America’s first textbook for preserving and sharing the Kiowa language.

“I love to share the ways of my people, the Kiowa,” she said.

Her work has made her a celebrity of sorts for her knowledge and enthusiasm about Kiowa history. In fact, visitors to the new American Indian-Smithsonian museum in Washington hear Gonzales’ voice in recorded segments on an audio tour.

Contact: Randy Talley, 1.405.574.1337