Hillerman was great author, teacher of Indian lore

Tony Hillerman is one of the most successful and well known authors from this part of the United States and one of the most popular ones to use the Navajo and other Indian cultures as a major part of his novels.

Hillerman's daughter Anne Hillerman and her husband and photographer Don Strel presented material on Hillerman and showed slides of scenes from his work at the Winslow Chamber of Commerce at the Hubbell Building in Winslow on Friday. The couple also autographed their publication Landscape The presentation included brief readings from his novels about the areas shown during the presentation.

The presentation was arranged by the Winslow Friends of the Library and was held to thank the citizens of Winslow and the area for their support through donations, purchases and in other supportive ways.

Hillerman wrote many novels with main characters based upon the Navajo culture. Anne Hillerman said that there were at least 17 such books and there are others that might well be in that category. He also wrote many non-fiction books, some of which were also on the cultures of Southwestern Indians. He was a journalist at a number of newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. He was later a professor at the University of New Mexico. A number of Hillerman's books became popular movies.

A number of Hillerman's novels feature Navajo Police Officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Among his books are The Shape Sifter, Skeleton Man, The Sinister Pig, A Thief of Time, Skinwalkers, The Ghostway, The Dark Way, Dancehall of the Dead, The Blessing Way and Listening Woman.

His novels are very popular with Native-American students and a popular teaching tool with such students. His writing has probably been a great blessing for reading teachers throughout the southwest and especially in places like Winslow, Holbrook, Chinle, Window Rock, Page and Flagstaff where there is a considerable number of American-Indian students.

The Southwest and especially the Navajo people lost an important friend and spokesman when Hillerman passed away in 2008.

Anne Hillerman said that her father had been to or through Winslow many times and had stayed at the La Posada.  She told about many of the places in his books and added some interesting tales about his writing career. One such tale concerned his attempts to sell his first novel, Blessing Way. His first agent did not care for the book and suggested he take out the Indian stuff. He got another agent who advised wisely that he use his Indian policeman more. The book was published in 1970 and stated his highly successful career as a novelist.

Another interesting tale was the making of a Kachina for him based on the book Sacred Clowns. The artist said that the clown like Kachina was "based on you."


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