January 07, 2009

Hillerman stole Native stories?

In ICI #178:  Dressing Up for Turkey Day, I reported on Tony Hillerman's death. In response, M. Matus wrote:I find it more than more than ironic that he is accepted as being "cool." All he did was steal Native folklore, stories, and myth to make millions. Especially on this site, I thought there was someone stalwart censoring things for us.My response:

It's not hard to determine that the Navajo praised Hillerman and gave him awards for his writing. For instance:

Tony Hillerman, Detective Novelist, Dies at 83Members of the Navajo community praised Hillerman for reigniting interest and fostering knowledge in Navajo ways. Ultimately it was the praise of the community that Hillerman valued highest.

Hillerman once said: “Good reviews delight me when I get them. But I am far more delighted by being voted the most popular author by the students of St. Catherine Indian school, and even more by middle-aged Navajos who tell me that reading my mysteries revived their children’s interest in the Navajo Way.”
Tony Hillerman, novelist, dies at 83The recognition that gladdened him most, however, was the status of Special Friend of the Dineh conferred on him in 1987 by the Navajo Nation for his honest, accurate portrayal of Navajo people and their culture. It was also a special source of pride to him that his books are taught on reservation high schools and colleges.If any tribe praised a non-Indian for his authentic rendering of their culture, it's unlikely that I'd criticize him for it. I rarely say I know better than Indians what's best for them.

A stalwart censor?

As for your "censor" comment, you mean someone who posts only what actual Indians do and not what non-Indians do? Wow, you must be a new reader, M. I've never come close to taking that approach.

As a non-Native who does Native-themed comics, I'm not going to "censor" people who are doing the same as me. In fact, I post tons of things about non-Natives who make movies or TV shows, write books or comic books, create art or teach classes about Indians. Compared to the attention I've given people such as Mel Gibson, Dick Wolf, and Steven Spielberg, I've barely mentioned Hillerman.

If these non-Indian creators deserve praise, I praise them; if they deserve criticism, I criticize them. My philosophy isn't to ignore or omit things that are bad. I prefer to expose them to the light of day. I use them as a teaching opportunity to explain why the things are bad and how they could be made better.

I hope that addresses your concerns. For more on Tony Hillerman, see The Best Indian Books.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

"All he did was steal Native folklore, stories, and myth to make millions."

Theft, huh? So, I suppose the folklore, stories, and myth all went missing after Hillerman made use of them. That is what happens with theft, of course. A taking.

Censor? I just can't see how someone who runs a blog can censor anything.