MARCH 11, 1986


Born on April 15, 1907, in Noatak, Alaska, Keats took an early interest in human anatomy and folk medicine and began healing people at age 16.  Without formal training, she used a book on physiology and Inupiat ways of wellness to heal.  Keats also delivered over 100 babies in her lifetime.  Known to possess special healing “powers,” she worked in rural clinics & urban hospitals—bridging between traditional & modern medicine.  Keats used 3 tools: hands, head, and heart.  Her remedies came from tundra herbs & plants.  Her goal: Get people involved with their own bodies.  She often worked for no pay.  Starting in 1974, Keats worked with the Maniilaq Association–a non-profit Native health corp.-and helped found its Tribal Doctor Program.  In the 1970s, Keats recorded stories of Inupiat elders.  A recipient of honorary doctorates, in 1985, Alaska’s governor named April 12th as “Della Keats Day.”  Keats died in Kotzebue, Alaska.  In 2009, she was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.  

Source:  Gabriella Riquelme, “Della Keats Biography,” Gabriella Riquelme for Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.  Retrieved 7/3/2020,
Photo:  U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, 5/14/1952.  Public Domain.  

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