Spirit of the Heard Award

Each year the Heard Museum Spirit of the Heard Award recognizes a living individual who has demonstrated a level of personal excellence in his/her life either individually or as a community leader in a chosen field. The award will recognize an individual in any of the areas that are consistent with the mission of the Heard Museum, which is to educate the public about the heritage and the living cultures and arts of Native peoples, with an emphasis on the peoples of the Southwest. The award is a national award with an emphasis on individuals who are members of a Southwest tribe or community. The award recipient must be someone who will be present to accept the honor.

Members of the American Indian Advisory Committee and identified museum staff will submit nominations to be considered by the committee, which selects the honoree in April of each year with the approval of the Board of Trustees. The award ceremony and reception is held the following October. The Heard Museum Spirit of the Heard honoree will receive a turquoise necklace, Pendleton blanket and award plaque.


Rocye Manuel at the Salt River

Royce Manuel (Akmierl Aw-Thum), 2013 Spirit of the Heard Award recipient, at the Salt River, with Red Mountain in the background. Photo by R. Farthing

Royce Manuel speaking about burden baskets

Royce Manuel (Akmierl Aw-Thum), 2013 Spirit of the Heard Award recipient, with one of his Pima burden baskets, in a visit to the Heard Museum in March. Photo by Apphia Shirley


10th Annual Spirit of the Heard Award Ceremony & Reception

Friday, October 11 at 4 p.m.
Heard Museum Steele Auditorium

Free and open to the public; doors open at 3:30 p.m.

The Heard Museum will present its 10th Annual Spirit of the Heard Award to Royce Manuel (Akmierl Aw-Thum), a Pima Indian who single-handedly saved the ability to weave the kiaha, or traditional Pima burden basket, from extinction.

Manuel, a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community east of Scottsdale, will receive the award at a ceremony, which, along with a reception that follows immediately after, are free and open to the public (museum admission additional).

In recent decades, the declining tradition among the Pima men to make the kiaha might have ended altogether had not for the close childhood relationship Manuel had with his Gaga, or paternal grandmother. She taught him the value of the “Old Way” and the importance of traditional tools men of his tribe once abundantly used: bows and arrows and the agave fiber for making the kiaha, as well as traditional sandals, three-hole courting flutes and water canteens.

And his Gaga showed him how to use agave to make baskets, as her own hands were getting weaker.

The “Old Way” and these tools are what the retired firefighter, the second of 10 children, has been teaching others during the years since, earning the respect of fellow tribal members.

“Mr. Manuel’s work is shared not only within the realms of his own tribal people, but also tribal government departments who call upon him regularly to provide a variety of demonstrations, classes and events,” wrote Dr. Wayne Mitchell, a life member of the museum’s Board of Trustees who made Manuel’s nomination. “Most recently Mr. Manuel was called upon to provide a series of classes on processing agave fiber from a fresh harvest form to using the prepared fiber to construct cordage in the traditional manner of the Aw-Thum (People).”

Manuel shares his knowledge with members of regional sister tribes as well, according to Mitchell.

“As a result of his efforts, he is creating a network cultural educational experience for people of all walks,” Mitchell wrote.

The Spirit of the Heard Award Ceremony and Reception is a Native American Recognition Days event.

Click here to view previous Spirit of the Heard awardees