Gene Keluche

Mr. Keluche (Wintun, Northern California) has been active in economic development and education, sports and wellness activities in Indian Country the majority of his adult life. He was raised in a foster home and did not learn of his Indian heritage until he was 12 years of age, when he went to live with his mother who was a full blood Wintun Indian from northern California.

He was first invited to become involved in Indian affairs by Mr. Paul Ortega, a Mescalero Medicine Man, who was working with the California Inter-Tribal Council in economic development. At that time the Executive Director of the council was Mr. Earnest Stevens, Sr., a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin. These early affiliations set Mr. Keluche on the path of learning how he might be of assistance to his people over the coming years.

In 1990, Mr. Keluche and his wife, Dr. Freita F. Keluche, formed a 501(C)3 foundation named the Ancient Ways of Knowing Foundation (“AWOK Foundation”). Following its initial efforts to support athletic teams at St. Michaels on the Navajo Indian Reservation, the Foundation sponsored the formation of the Native American Sports Council, Inc. a 501(C)3 non-profit organization  (“NASC”).

  Gene Keluche


The NASC is dedicated to the conduct of sports and wellness programs in participating Indian communities and assisting the tribes to obtain assistance from the Olympic Sports Federation’s National Governing Bodies of the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO. After almost two years of effort, the NASC was voted into membership in the USOC as a Community Based Multi-Sport Member. Since then, the NASC has conducted numerous sports development programs for Indian youth in cycling, boxing, wrestling, distance running, team handball, archery, volleyball, baseball and women’s fast pitch.

In 2005, the NASC was asked by the Canadian North American Indigenous Games Council to bid on conducting the 2006 North American Indigenous Games (2006 NAIG), which had previously been awarded to an upstate New York organizing committee that was unable to perform. Even though the NASC had an extremely short period of time to organize, finance and conduct the Games, they were awarded to the NASC in January 2005, with a pledge of support from the Colorado host tribes Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribes.

As is required by the NAIG Council Agreement, an independent non-profit organization, the Colorado Indigenous Games Council (“CIGS”) was formed with separate governance in February 2006. CIGS set about raising the $5.0 Million needed to fund the Games, developing an organization to organize, promote and conduct the 2006 NAIG. (In Canada, the Federal and Provincial Governments provide approximately $7 Million of funding for the games, which are typically awarded 3 years in advance of the event).

In spite of almost impossibly short lead time, CIGS, supported by the Colorado Host and other participating Indian Tribes, foundations, corporations, the USOC, and state and local government agencies, successfully conducted the largest North American Indigenous Games held since their inception in 1990.

The 2006 North American Indigenous Games (“2006 NAIG”) were a great success with more than 6,100 Native American and First Nation athletes competing at all ages in 16 sports July 2-8, 2006, including team delegation, coaches and officials. This event was the largest celebration of Indigenous Sport and Culture in the western hemisphere, with more than 3,300 Native American athletes representing their respective Tribes from 23 states and over 2,800 First Nations athletes from 13 Canadian Provinces, including team delegations, officials and coaches. Over twice the number of U.S. native athletes participated in 2006 NAIG than have participated since the first games were held in 1990.

One of the founders of the North American Indigenous Games, Mr. Willie Littlechild, Esq., Ermanskin Cree, Alberta, Canada, has for many years championed Indigenous people’s Human Rights issues in the U.N. He formed the World Indigenous Nations Sports NGO (“WIN Sports”) in Canada. Just as the NAIG was intended to build bonds of friendship, mutual respect, dedication to sports and wellness, and common purpose along the First Peoples of Canada and Native American communities, Mr. Littlechild has had the vision for many years that the World Indigenous Games will become a reality.

Through Mr. Littlechild’s years of tireless work in the U.N., OAS and Indigenous organizations around the world, WIN Sports, Inc. has obtained a multi-million dollar planning grant from the Province of Alberta, Canada, and is developing plans to fund, organize and conduct the first World Indigenous Games in Alberta, Canada in 2010. Mr. Keluche is a founding director of WIN Sports and, through the NASC, he intends to assist in organizing the participation of Native American tribes in this important worldwide initiative.

In parallel with the above efforts, Mr. Keluche formed Native Communities Development Corporation (“NCDC”) to assist Native American tribes in their economic and community development initiatives. In addition to conducting feasibility studies for several California tribes interested in developing gaming and resort enterprises, NCDC formed a remote sensing and mapping division (NCDC Imaging), using high resolution satellite imagery to assess natural resources for economic and environmental planning purposes. NCDC Imaging initially conducted forest assessment studies for the Navajo Nation and Wildfire Risk assessments for the Blackfoot Indian Tribe in Montana.

It soon became apparent that wildfire emergency response and restoration were taking priority over planning and the funding originally available to tribes under the Federal Healthy Forest legislation was severely curtailed. Funding for these programs was being diverted to the suppression of the large number of forest fires in the Western U.S. and most recently, Katrina. NCDC Imaging is continuing to conduct wide area natural resource assessment studies in large agricultural areas of Brazil, land preservation projects in Chile, and large urban areas; and anticipates that this new technology will yet become a valuable resource to assist large land owning tribes and regional corporations to better assess, manage and preserve their natural resources on the 79 million acres of land held in trust for their benefit by the U.S. government.

The Ancient Ways of Knowing Foundation has been a sponsor of each of the above initiatives. Its present Indian Boarding School initiative is an outgrowth of Mr. Keluche’s learning of his mother’s experience as a young girl at the Sherman Indian School in 1930-31. Because of the severe punishment and abuse that was commonplace at Sherman, his mother ran away from the school in 1932, gave birth to Mr. Keluche in 1933, and placed him in a foster home several months later. As he looks back on these actions of a frightened young single mother at the end of the great depression, it is obvious that she was trying to give Mr. Keluche a new and better life than she had. This story motivated his wife, Dr. Freita F. Keluche, to spend the last ten years researching and learning more about the inter-generational impact of the little known and often misrepresented 100 year Indian Boarding School episode in this country and as it continues in Canada.

AWOK Foundation’s “The Way Home” project is the outgrowth of Mrs. Keluche’s work which has been aided by elders who were sent to Indian Boarding Schools, their children, educators, legislators, tribal leaders and other interested individuals and institutions. “The Way Home” project includes a publication of essays based on selected individual’s on-camera interviews, a documentary film, Remembering for Tomorrow: The Indian Boarding School Experience, and a traveling interactive educational exhibit based on the “Remembering Our Indian School Days” exhibit on the 100 year history of the Indian Boarding Schools on display at the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.  This interactive educational exhibit will traverse Indian Country from the northwest to the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC in 2009 as a part of a cycling ride by representatives of Indian Tribes to bring awareness to this little known, almost never talked about, tragic part of our American history.

The effects of forcibly taking virtually all school age and many pre-school children from their families, sending them far from home, severely punishing them for speaking the only languages they knew, forcing them to dress and speak only the “school’s” language, learning only menial servant work skills, and sending them back to a now “foreign” culture they could not rejoin, made them orphans in their own country. The effects of these government sponsored experiences have for generations contributed to the despair, and to the physical and substance abuse issues that are rampant in Indian communities and neighboring urban areas. The effects of this effort at forced assimilation are most shockingly manifested today in teenage suicides, which are three times higher than the national average.

Prior to starting down the path described above, Mr. Keluche attended Chico State College (Now California State University at Chico), graduating in 1954 with a B.S. degree in Applied Engineering Science, was commissioned at the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI; graduated from Naval Flight Training and served as a Naval Aviator 1956 through 1959. Following his military service he attended the Harvard Business School, graduating with an MBA in 1962. He has since been a principal or founder in numerous commercial ventures in education, biotechnology, computer software, tourism, gaming, lodging, satellite imaging and economic development.

Mr. Keluche was co-chairman, with the Secretary of the Smithsonian, of the International Founder’s Council of the National Museum of the American Indian and a director of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He is presently a Director of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (“UCAR”) Foundation, whose mission is to commercialize technology developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (“NCAR”). NCAR is one of the nation’s foremost Federal laboratories studying the environment. He is also a Director of the Native American Bank, N.A., Denver, CO. and is Chairman of the Executive Committee of Native Peoples Magazine, Phoenix, AZ.

Freita Keluche

Freita Fuller Keluche, Ph.D. is a co-founder of the Ancient Ways of Knowing Foundation, a Colorado Springs based 501(C) 3 dedicated to the exploration and rediscovery of ancient knowledge, and promoting health and wellness in Native American communities.

Dr. Keluche sponsored and facilitated an 8-day gathering in September 1998 between 8 Chinese masters of the healing arts and 14 Native American elders and healers, representing 11 different tribes.  The purpose of the gathering was to share philosophies, healing practices, and rituals associated with health and wellness.

Six months later, a follow up gathering brought together a Bantu medicine man and his peers from Native American and Chinese cultures to continue the dialogue.  The result of these two gatherings suggested a profound interconnect-edness between the traditional healers of these three indigenous cultures and their focus on the wholeness of spirit which contributes to the health and wellness of an individual.

In 2002, Dr. Keluche began researching the history of the American Indian Boarding Schools.  Partnering with Denver Center Media of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Ancient Ways of Knowing Foundation entered Phase I in the production of Remembering for Tomorrow, a documentary on the little known history of the cultural genocide of Native peoples. 

Working with Rick Machle and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ, Dr. Keluche is developing a traveling educational exhibit on the history of the boarding schools to accompany THE WAY HOME TOUR across the United States.  Following the TOUR, the exhibit will continue to bring awareness of this dark past of American History as the exhibit travels to other locations in the United States not visited during THE WAY HOME TOUR.

Dr. Keluche earned a Ph.D. and a Master of Arts degree in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of Colorado, and a Bachelors Degree in Communications from Auburn University. 

Freita Keluche

Printable version of this page