Obituary for Kenneth Dan “K.D.” Edwards
October 4, 1927 – May 16, 2022
Kenneth Dan “K.D.” Edwards was born along the Red River in his grandmother’s house at the mouth of Cache Creek on October 4th, 1927. He was the son of Cecil Tychywy and Henrietta Elizabeth (Thompson) and Homer C. Edwards. He attended Temple High School in Temple, Oklahoma where he played football and played trombone in the school band.
From the age of nine, K.D. was an adventurer when he traveled with his grandmother to Canada to visit her relatives and drove his grandmother’s Model T while sitting on a milk crate. Raised on his step-father’s ranch south of Temple, he learned to herd, brand, vaccinate, and de-horn cattle, all the skills required to maintain a good cattle herd. He also helped his step-father with work at the grain elevator and the cotton gin.
Transferring the skills he learned in ranching to the rodeo arena, his first rodeo was at about 14 years of age. He would compete and sometimes win, but it was after the Depression and there was not much money in rodeo though he continued to rodeo during the summers. He competed in bulldogging (steer wrestling), saddle bronc, and bull riding, which was his favorite event.
KD joined the United States Marine Corps, enlisting in Santa Fe, NM, with training at Camp Pendleton, California. He was in the 1st Marine Division and arrived at Iwo Jima as part of the first wave, being in artillery. After it was over, K.D. was also a part of a security force in Guadalcanal. He was stationed in Tientsin, China, and Sasebo, Japan.
A gunnery sergeant, K.D. received four Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in his service to the United States. During his stint in North China, he and his fellow Marines were sent on assignment to Mongolia. They were invited to eat with the Mongolians though he did not take to the rancid yak butter, a delicacy. He observed their horsemanship and their dances, saying they were like those of the Apache Mountain Spirit dances. K.D. left the Marine Corps, but later reenlisted and served in Korea. He was truly one of the Greatest Generation.
After leaving the Marines, K.D. attended Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State University) where he was president of both the Indian Club and Rodeo Club. At one time he was the third leading bull rider in the nation, once riding a bull that had never been ridden. He was injured in a bad bull ride, returned to school, and dropped down the list.
K.D. worked as a firefighter for the City of Midwest City for 20 years. After retirement, he did beadwork, making it for his young family who was just beginning to dance. In the summer, they danced at powwows across Oklahoma and Texas. One of his greatest joys was dancing in Pawnee, Oklahoma during the war dances and veterans’ dances. Another joy was to sing with his wife’s grandpas at the big drum at handgames and powwows.
He traveled with many Comanche and Kiowa dance groups. He spoke fluent old-style Comanche learned from his grandmother and the Attocknie family. As a young man, he went with the Comanches to England for a performance before the Queen. While a staff member during the first three years of the Red Earth Festival, along with Jim Anquoe, Sr., and several other dancers, K.D. traveled to London, England to perform at the World Market, a major tourism event at which countries showcase their cultures. He and the family also traveled with the Tom Ware dance group to Texas and New Mexico performances, including the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonials.
In 1989, K.D. was asked to go to Florida to perform at Fort Liberty - Wild Bill’s Wild West Dinner Theater in Kissimmee, Florida, for a year, and took son Vincent and grandson Chebon Chibitty with him. Rank Leisure, USA Inc., which owned several dinner theaters and Hard Rock Cafe in the Orlando area, asked the dancers to stay on for another two years.
While in Florida, K.D.’s group, named “The Great Plains Indian Dancers,” were invited to perform for the Bahamian Ambassador, the Bahamian Customs, and the United States Customs departments in Freeport and Nassau. The group opened for the Bahamen of “Who Let the Dogs Out” fame in Freeport. The Bahamen drummer and K.D. had quite a discussion about hand drums as they were waiting to perform. K.D. was honored to be the parade marshal for one of the Martin Luther King, Jr. parades in Kissimmee.
In 1997, K.D. and his son James were in “Drummin’” a composition created by Cuban composer Tania Leon with the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida. The symphony featured several major percussionists in South Florida, including Haitian, Japanese Taiko, Cuban, Korean, and others, with K.D. and James representing Native Americans. In 1999, K.D. and James traveled with the “Drummin’” ensemble to Hamburg, Germany where the composition opened the Hammoniale Festival der Frauen.
While there, a call came to find out if K.D. and the group were interested in performing at an Indian Village at Schloss Schonau an der Treisting, south of Vienna, Austria. Wife Irene organized the travel of five additional family members and friends to meet K.D. and James in Vienna, including a visit by herself and her mother. The group stayed in Austria for six months.
K.D. and the group performed at conventions, corporate retreats, colleges and universities, world music classes, powwows, and festivals across the United States. They also danced during intermission at a Miami Heat basketball game where Coach Pat Riley gave him the nod of approval.
In 2016, K.D., his family, and a couple of friends were invited to be a part of the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day at the Santa Fe Plaza as declared by the mayor. The family sang songs in celebration of the designation.
Millions of people were entertained by K.D. for nearly 50 years.
In the last 19 years, while living in Santa Fe, K.D. spent time with friends and family from Taos Pueblo and Dulce to Isleta, from Mescalero to Zuni, and out to Second Mesa, Arizona. He had many friends from the Pueblos, Dine’, and Apache tribes. He enjoyed singing at the big drum at powwows and became “Uncle” or “Grandpa” to many young singers. He was well respected for his wisdom and knowledge of songs.
A great storyteller, he was always willing to tell his stories to those who would listen, and many found themselves enthralled by his stories. A quote found on the internet was K.D.’s philosophy: “Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – Jaswat Soni. He enjoyed doing the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen, playing solitaire, doing word searches, and petting Yoda Katt and Satchel Katt.
K.D. is survived by his wife Irene, sons Hiram (Debora), Edwards, James, and daughter Claire Edwards, Santa Fe, New Mexico; daughter Waka Tabbie Edwards, Walters, Oklahoma; adopted brother James (Cheryl) Shollenberger, St. Louis, Missouri; adopted son Martin (Erica) Olvera, Oklawaha, Florida; adopted daughter Susan Gutierrez of Clearwater, Florida adopted nephew Matt Adkins, Melbourne, Florida; and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, and a host of nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father Cecil, mother Henrietta, step-father Homer, brothers G.L., H.C., Max, and sister Corene (Charles) Groves, and two sons Kenneth Brent Edwards and Vincent H. Edwards.