Oklahoma Spirit Woman

Sunday, August 10th 2008, 6:08 pm
By: News 9

By Christian Price, News9.com INsite Team

ANADARKO, Okla. -- Her Kiowa name translates to Spirit Woman. She has been an example and an inspiration to all Native Americans no matter what tribe. She has been named the 2008 Indian of the Year at Anadarko's 77th Annual American Exposition.

Martha Koomsa Perez, or Spirit Woman, has spent her life helping her fellow Native Americans in countless ways.

She became involved in tribal politics by helping tribal elders. She has worked with the Indian Education Association and eventually became a delegate for the Kiowa tribe at the National Congress of American Indians.

As time has passed, so have many tribal elders, who are a vital part of preserving Native American history. This is the driving force behind Perez and her accomplishments.

"Life is too precious now. We must live each day on a daily basis now in order to teach our young ones our traditions and our culture," Perez said. "For me, my history books are gone. We've lost too many elders and they were my history books, and I'm an elder now. I'm trying my best to do whatever I can do to try to preserve our culture," Perez said. "I was told that after my generation, our language is going to be gone."

One person who is especially grateful for having Perez in her life is Perez's quadriplegic daughter, Nannette Bert.

"To me, one of the most major things that she's done in her life is when I had my accident 16 years ago," Bert said. "She was there from the time she found out about it in the hospital through the rehabilitation, through trying to find means of how to take care of me. She was just there for me."

Bert said that once her mother found out about her new appointment, she asked if she really deserved it.

"She asked me if she should accept the position, and I said, ‘Yes, of course mom.' But, she said, ‘but why me? Why did they pick me? What have I done to deserve this?' Bert explained to her mother, "You don't even realize the impact that you put on other people's lives and also the inspiration that you give to them."

Before the ceremony took place, Perez was asked what's the one thing the people of the world should know about Native Americans and their culture.

"For ever what reasons, we've been shoved aside to where we're kind of the forgotten people," Perez said. "But we're still here no matter what and we hope to be here for many more years."