"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
Frank Waters plays a vital, vibrant, continuing role in the victory of Native American spirituality over Spanish conquest and Anglo suppression. His books are in Roman Catholic and Anglican seminary libraries, respected for their sensitive interpretation of Native American spirituality. His writings exert a profound influence upon priests privileged to serve American Indians today, of which I am one. Our awareness of, our admiration for, the sanctity inherent in Native American life was awakened by and nourished by Frank Waters' volumes. For his writing wondrously captures the rich beauty and holiness of the religions of the Southwest tribes.
That rich beauty and holiness both blesses and is in turn blessed by the sacred land. Frank Waters' lifelong witness to the sacral nature of the American Southwest affords him a place among the preeminent regional authors of this nation. For America is indeed holy land, both in terms of Native awareness of that sanctity as part of a Spirit-filled cosmos, and also because of the fact sacred power does indeed flow from this land, blessing the inhabitants. Indians have always known this, and the holy places venerated by the tribes cover the continent. Shrines such as the sacred Blue Lake of Taos Pueblo; the four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo Nation; Noaha-vose the Holy Mountain of the Cheyenne People, called Bear Butte today; the sacred Black Hills of the Lakotas, and a host of other tribal holy places testify to the sacred life, the sacred power flowing from the land and waters that form America. Many of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, believe that it is this sanctity, this sacred life, which makes the United States the living, dynamic, compassionate nation that she is, set apart in greatness and great-heartedness from any other nation. It is the holiness of the life flowing from Mother Earth here that makes America the place of blessing she is for so many people throughout the world.
Frank Waters knows this sanctity, these blessings that flow from earth, sky, mountains and rivers, from his own life among them. Ever open to the Sacred, his writings reveal a man blessed, enriched and spiritually transformed by holy power throughout his lifetime. He knows the unity of spirit which unites all seekers of sanctity, whatever their culture.
Small wonder then that this man committed to recounting humanity's longings for the Sacred should himself be the possessor of unique literary powers. There is a wonderful spiritual consistency to Frank Waters' writing, from his earliest volumes on. There is a wondrous beauty and power in his prose. Witness The Man Who Killed the Deer, written in 1942. Today it is widely acknowledged that the book deserved to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the year it appeared. It did not, which remains both a tragedy and an injustice. Happily, however, tragedy and injustice have been transformed into triumph in this case. The novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 is all but forgotten. The Man Who Killed the Deer remains internationally renowned as a distinguished literary classic of the American Southwest. Frank Waters' writing therein is esteemed for capturing the essence of Pueblo character and culture with a sensitivity and beauty unrivaled by any other Anglo novelist.
The literary powers so consummately displayed in The Man Who Killed the Deer grow only more glorious with the years. Frank Waters' admirers all have their favorite volumes, those in which they believe his superb talents best displayed. I am no exception. All Frank's books are treasures. For me, however, three sparkle as richly as Navajo or Hopi silver reflecting Sun's brightness at midday. These volumes are Masked Gods: Navajo and Pueblo Ceremonialism, The Woman at Otowi Crossing, and Book of the Hopi.
Frank Waters' writings display, with singular power, a uniquely consistent witness to the presence of the Holy in both the Native Peoples and the land of America, especially the Southwest. They demonstrate his conviction nourished by his identity with American Indians, that all life and truth is one deriving from a single Source that is at once holy and eternal. Brilliant, profound, eloquent, a deeply spiritual man: Frank Waters is a true American national treasure, a literary master whose life bears radiant testimony to the presence of the Sacred in American life.
"Santo Domingo Corn Dance" for Frank Waters
By R. P. Dickey
beat of the drum's a round drop
There it comes, then it comes, and it comes.
Barbara, Betty Brukhalter, Frank and Mary Ann Torrence, 1988
by Mary Ann Torrence
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