The Duncan Banner

Local News

October 10, 2013

Towana Spivey recognized as Indian Elder by AARP

DUNCAN — Duncan resident Towana Spivey, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who is a historical preservationist and consulted on the film, “Dances with Wolves,” was among 50 people recognized recently at the 5th annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors held in Oklahoma City.

Spivey has spent his life and career involved in preserving the history, language and culture of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Chiricahua, Apache and Warm Springs Apache tribes.

While conducting archaeological investigations at 19th century military posts and historic sites, he worked simultaneously as curator for the Chickasaw White House, and was a consultant on the preservation of the original 1855 Chickasaw Nation Council House.

Since 1982, Mr. Spivey has been director/curator at the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum in Lawton and is also a senior curator for the U.S. Army Museum System, where he is involved in the planning of the new Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill. He has written several books and articles pertaining to frontier history and has served as a consultant in at least 35 television documentaries.

He has also worked as a historical consultant to movie productions, playing an intricate role in development of characters and historical accuracy in the making of movies including “Windtalkers” and “Dances with Wolves.”

The AARP Honors event is the largest celebration of older Native Americans in the state. It is a tribute to the venerated position of honor and respect tribal nations show for their elders, said AARP Oklahoma State President Marjorie Lyons.

All the elders have varied backgrounds, but are all connected by their Indian culture.

 In the past five years, AARP has honored 250 Indian Elders from all 39-federally recognized tribes and nations headquartered in Oklahoma.

 Other honorees this year included spiritual and cultural leaders, a world-record powerlifting champion, dancers, veterans and a nationally known chef who creates healthy recipes inspired by indigenous foods.

 AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl, who emceed the event, says the Indian Elder Honors is the cornerstone of the association’s on-going work with Native Americans in the state. Projects highlighted included a comprehensive survey of the needs and wants of Native Americans in Oklahoma, healthy cooking seminars, food security programs and health care law education for Native Americans.

 “AARP’s vision of a society in which all people live with dignity and purpose is also the Indian way,” he said. “We are excited about how we can continue working to make that vision a reality in Oklahoma Indian Country as we continue to build relationships.”

 Michael E. Bird, a member of the AARP National Policy Council, delivered the keynote address. Bird, a Santo Domingo-San Juan Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, was the first American Indian to serve as President of the American Public Health Association.

 “These elders will leave an indelible impact on their tribes, their families, and their communities for many years to come,” he said. “They have our respect and our gratitude for the ways they have helped keep and pass on our tribal traditions and way of life.”

For more on Spivey, visit The Banner’s office to get a copy of Duncan ...the magazine June 2012 edition, in which an in-depth article features his work.

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