Della Keats: Trailblazer of the Tribal Doctor Program
October 09, 2020
Della Keats (1907-1986) was born in 1907 in Noatak, Alaska, Keats was trained at an early age in midwifery, developing an interest in anatomy and traditional medicine. Keats taught herself what she needed to know using a Western physiology book and combining that with knowledge received from Iñupiaq elders. She said she used three tools to heal her patients: her hands, her head, and her heart. Her methods included a combination of physical manipulations and plant-based natural remedies from the land.
Della’s aptitude for healing was well known throughout Alaska and she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1983. In her later years, Della helped create the Tribal Doctor Program through the Maniilaq Association, which continues to serve shareholders throughout northwest Alaska. Although she passed away in 1986, Keats continues to be a guiding light in Alaska’s health field. In 2009, she was inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame.
Did you know Della Keats and have a story you’d like to share about her? We’d love to know more about her and about the powerful women in your life. Share your images and stories with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us (@anchoragemuseum and #ExtraToughWomenAK) and we’ll add them to our ongoing digital curation project. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming exhibition and be sure to check back for new #ExtraToughWomenAK posts.
Image credit: Charles V. Lucier Papers, 1903-2009, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage, UAA-HMC-0165-b12-f18-32