Ode to Tony HIllerman

Tony Hillerman passed away this last week. He will be missed both as a person and a writer.

Though I was never fortunate enough to meet Mr. Hillerman, I read all of his books. Of course his books about the Navajo and other Indians had an influence on me--and was part of the reason I created an Indian heroine.

What he wrote gave me an interest in the Native American culture that I'd never had before.

What I've learned is that in many ways, Indians are much like all the rest of us. There are good and bad among them, they love and hate, care for one another and sometimes do things they are sorry for later.

I went to school with only one person of Native American heritage--and back then it wasn't popular to have Indian blood. My fellow student is now a professor and an expert on Native American culture.

When we first moved to the foothills of the Sierra, I had no idea we lived near an Indian reservation, nor anything about it or the people who lived there. As time went on and I learned more about the history of Springville and its surroundings, I also learned about the Yokut Indians, some of their past and their culture.

I met a woman who was an elder of the tribe, a most interesting and intelligent woman. Later, I met her daughter and learned more about this family.

I'm not sure when the idea came to me that the female deputy I was writing about should have Native blood--but this added another dimension to Deputy Tempe Crabtree. Along with this decision, I had to do some research and find out more about the local Indians.

Since then, I've made several trips to the reservation, talked to more Native people, learned more about their traditions and legends, some of which are reflected in my books.

I've branched out, learned about the Tolowa people, becoming good friends with a Tolowa woman, and writing about them.

Though I haven't written about the Native people of Alaska, I have several good friends there. One of whom I was fortunate enough to stay with for several days and got acquainted with her mom and dad and heard some great stories.

My respect for these people who have had a difficult past to overcome, but a rich and colorful heritage, has grown over the years.

If it hadn't been for Tony Hillerman's novels stirring my interest and curiosity, I might never have taken the time to learn about the Native people who live where I live and elsewhere.

Thank you, Mr. Hillerman, may you rest in peace.



Morgan Mandel said…
It's amazing how one author can influence another. You never know what will cause a spark.

Morgan Mandel

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