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Della Keats was an Iñupiaq born in 1907 in Usualak, a settlement on the Noatak River near the current village of Noatak, Alaska. She was trained at an early age in midwifery, and developing an interest in anatomy and traditional medicine. She taught herself what she needed to know using a Western physiology book and combined that with knowledge she received from Iñupiaq elders. Her methods included a combination of physical manipulations and plant-based natural remedies from the land. In her later years, Della helped create the Tribal Doctor Program at Maniilaq Association in Kotzebue, where she traveled to villages throughout northwestern Alaska as a tribal doctor and trained young people in the art of traditional healing.
Della was well known as a traditional healer throughout Alaska and received numerous honors and awards for her work. In 1983, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in Health Sciences by the University of Alaska Anchorage. The University also named two programs after her: the Della Keats Health Sciences Summer Program and the Della Keats Summer Research Program. In 2009, Della was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame and she has an entry in the National Library of Medicine. Maniilaq Health Center, headquartered in Kotzebue, celebrates Della Keats day each year in her memory. Della Keats passed away in 1986.