2020 Elders and Presenters
Curtis Kekahbah - Kanza, Kaw Elder
Curtis lives in northern Oklahoma. He has been a presenter at spiritual and
educational conferences nationwide with an emphasis on traditional, indigenous
beliefs and the sacred aspects of life. He has led exercises and ceremonies to fully
engage participants and orient them to the traditional Native American paradigm
of spirit, mind and body. He has been invited as a guest lecturer to speak at
colleges around the US on indigenous topics.
Curtis is a long-time employee with the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in Tucson as a traditional counselor. He provides presentations and group counseling for the hospital substance abuse program and gives in-service training to the hospital staff, which includes cultural sensitivity awareness. In this location, Curtis presents at the annual "Gathering of Healers" program consisting of indigenous healers from around the US. He serves the hospital staff and also provides counseling and home visits in the community for indigenous and local people.
Curtis continues to present workshops and provide opportunities for healing in
ceremonial settings in his traditional home state of Kansas as well as in Oklahoma
and other locations. On the grounds of the annual Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers
Gathering, he shares prayers and ceremony in his native Kanza language as an
offering to his tribal homeland in Council Grove, Kansas.
Della Romero - Pueblo and Ute
Della Romero (Flies High) has followed the Lakota Ways as a Sun Dancer, a supporter, and a participator of Lakota ceremonial life. She served her teacher, Southern Ute Grandmother Bertha Grove (Red Earth Woman) for 20 years as a ‘helper’. Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers got to know Della as she accompanied Grandmother Bertha to the FHWK Gatherings. Grandmother Bertha designated Della as one to carry on her work for Mother Earth after her passing, which happened in 2009. Della has served as a pipe carrier for over 30 years. She has been with FHWK since 2011. She has a Master’s Degree and recently retired from her 17 year supervisory position on the Southern Ute Reservation in family therapy. She served many families and directed a program titled Youth at Risk. Della is experienced with finding bridges to cross for the coming seven generations.
Debra Bolton - Dine'/Ohkay O'Wingeh/Uncompahgre
Dr. Bolton works as director of intercultural learning and academic success for Kansas State University. Bolton plays a key role in fostering cultural advocacy, civility and intercultural learning to improve success rates for students from historically marginalized populations. A recent recipient of a Research and Exploration grant from National Geographic Society, Bolton focuses on creating pathways to STEM for females. Also, Debra actively posts blogs: Human Ecology: People, Foods, Travel, Culture, and Social Justice, mainly focusing on food as a cultural transmitter (https://wordpress.com/view/peopleandcultures.blog). Dr. Bolton keeps an active presentation schedule sharing results of her multi-lingual research in multi-ethnic populations. Current favorite quote: "Indian Nations shall rise, and it shall be a blessing for a sick world".
Julia Brown Wolf - Lakota Nation
Donna Joseph - Lakota Nation
Reuben IronHorse Kent - Iowa Nation of Kansas & Nebraska
2019 Fire Keeper of The Sacred Fire
Mark Sampsel became a Firekeeper upon teachings given him from Native American Elders who presented at historical Wisdom Keepers Conferences and Gatherings. Mark cherishes his role tending the Sacred Fire and is glad to share some of the ways of traditional firekeeping with those who join him day or night.
The Sacred Fire will be started at the Sunrise Sacred Fire Circle Ceremony on Saturday early morning led by an invited Native American Elder and tended by the Firekeeper. All Gathering attendees are invited to this ceremony at sunrise. Participants may also join and help with firekeeping for one or two hours, during the day or night, by signing on the designated schedule in the main lodge.
The Sacred Fire Circle is open to everyone at anytime with respect to holding space for invited Elders who may be in the circle doing special ceremony and with respect to all those in quiet reflection, meditation and prayer.
Mark is a sculptor who created the Kaw Nation “Guardian of the Grove” bronze statue at the park entrance of Council Grove. Upon his close collaboration and work with the Kaw Nation in creating this statue and other bronze busts of the last 5 Kaw full-bloods and five other past Kaw Elders, a Kaw Elder ceremoniously adopted him as a Kaw Brother.