"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
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Frank and Barbara Waters at their Arroyo Seco home, Photo by Howard Taylor
Frank Waters was born on July 25, 1902, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His father was part Cheyenne Indian, his mother from the South.
Her father, Joseph Dozier, was a prominent local contractor who lost all
his money trying to develop mines in the Cripple Creek area.
Frank attended Colorado College from 1921 to 1924 as an engineering
major. Quitting school when the limited curriculum failed to
stimulate him, he worked at various jobs throughout the West, traveled in
Mexico, and wrote.
In 1924 he began working as a day laborer in the oil fields of Salt Creek,
Wyoming, then as a telephone engineer in southern California and on the
Mexico border. During World War II he prepared background briefs and propaganda
analyses for the office of the
Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs under Nelson Rockefeller in Washington,
Returning to the Southwest, he was managing editor of the former bi-lingual weekly Taos newspaper, El Crepusculo. Later he served as an information consultant for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico and in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the atomic tests at Yucca Flat and Frenchman’s Flat. He also served several writing stints in motion picture studios in Hollywood, California. During 1966 Waters was writer-in-residence at Colorado State University, and then served one year as the first director of the New Mexico Arts Commission in Santa Fe.
This varied background is mirrored in his
27 books, which include
novels, biographies, histories, and
essay collections. Much of his fiction and non-fiction reflects Waters’ deep
interest in the culture and religion of Navajo,
Hopi, Pueblo. and pre-Columbian peoples. He
claimed that all his books were immediate failures when first published.
Nevertheless, they were constantly reissued in small printings and
translated into foreign languages until finally gaining worldwide acceptance.
His classic novel The Man Who
Killed the Deer, first
published in 1942, has been in print for nearly 60 years.
His non-fiction studies Masked
Gods: Navajo and Pueblo Ceremonialism,
1950, and Book of the Hopi,
1963, continue to be used as primary source books in schools; and at least 20 of his books are still being published.
Their popularity in part
reflects the awakening of our nation to spiritual values of Native Americans
and to the need for protecting our
environment, which is at the core of traditional Indian belief.
Waters extended the scope of
his Indian studies in 1970 when he was given a Rockefeller Foundation grant to
research the pre-Columbian culture and religion of the Toltecs, Aztecs, and
Mayas in Mexico and Guatemala.
From this came his book Mexico Mystique: the Coming Sixth World of
Consciousness, 1975, still published by Ohio University Press.
On a NEA grant he traveled to Peru and Bolivia in 1982 to expand this
He was nominated numerous times for the Nobel Prize, and was awarded seven honorary doctorate degrees from southwestern colleges: University of Albuquerque, 1973; Colorado State University, 1973; New Mexico State University, 1976; University of New Mexico, 1978; Colorado College, 1978; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, 1983 and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1982.
from Man Who Killed the Deer
A permanently endowed
creative writing fellowship in his name was established at New Mexico State
University, and the Frank Waters
Foundation carries on his ideas and work besides sponsoring residencies and the Frank Waters Southwest Writing Award.
Waters was known as the
“Grandfather of Southwestern Literature” when he died in 1995 at his home in
Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, where he is buried.
In 1998 MacMurray & Beck posthumously published his final memoir, Of Time and Change. He is survived by Arleene Arnell, daughter of his only sibling, Naomi, and by his widow, Barbara, who has written a memoir called Celebrating the Coyote about their enduring marriage.
Go to Waters' Chronology -> 1902-1945
Go to Waters' Book List -> CLICK HERE
Go to Background Material -> CLICK HERE