F. Waters' Biography

"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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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. 

 

  Frank's mother May Ione Dozier Waters

 

  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, D.C. 

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 research.

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

                                                    1946-1969

                                                    1970-2002

                                

Go to Waters' Book List -> CLICK HERE

Go to Background Material -> CLICK HERE

 

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