Tag Archives: Man Who Killed the Deer

Frank Waters and The Man Who Killed The Deer

Frank Waters (1901-1995), photo via In The Grand Canyon – John Jauregui.

I have read most of Frank Waters’ work and I find him spot on for southwestern life and lore. In college history classes, I have used his novel of Pueblo Indian life as a literary example for the internal conflict people have when born and reared in the center of conflicting cultures. This excerpt I have is not about cultural conflict or diffusion, but about the web of all living things as Silence spoke about the Pueblo Indian, Martiniano, killing a deer out of season and failure to give proper respect.  The Pueblo council of elders contemplates:

Nothing is simple and alone.  We are not separate and alone.  The breathing mountains, the living stones, each blade of grass, the clouds, the rain, each star, the beasts, the birds and the invisible spirits of the air — we are all one, indivisible.  Nothing that any of us does but affects us all.

So I would have you look upon this thing not as a separate simple thing, but as a stone which is a star in the firmament of earth, as a ripple in a pool, as a kernel of corn.  I would have you consider how it fits into the pattern of the whole.  How far its influence may spread.  What it may grow into . . .

So there is something else to consider.  The deer.  It is dead.  In the old days we all remember, we did not go out on a hunt lightly.  We said to the deer we were going to kill, “We know your life is as precious as ours.  We know that we are both children of the same Great True Ones.  We know that we are all one life on the same Mother Earth, beneath the same plains of the sky.  But we also know that one life must sometimes give way to another so that the one great life of all may continue unbroken.  So we ask your permission, we obtain your consent to this killing.”

Ceremonially we said this, and we sprinkled meal and corn pollen to our Father Sun.  And when we killed the deer we laid his head toward the East, and sprinkled him with meal and pollen.  And we dropped drops of his blood and bits of his flesh on the ground for Our Mother Earth.  It was proper so.  For then when we too built its flesh into our flesh, when we walked in the moccasins of its skin, when we danced in its robe and antlers, we knew that the life of the deer was continued in our life, as it in turn was continued in the one life all around us, below us and above us.

We knew the deer knew this and was satisfied.

But this deer’s permission was not obtained.  What have we done to this deer, our brother?  What have we done to ourselves?  For we are all bound together, and our touch upon one travels through all to return to us again.  Let us not forget the deer.

(Frank Waters, The Man Who Killed the Deer, pp. 24-25.)

William Lattrell of Wild Ramblings Blog has written of the respect that is needed for the kill.  When I sent twenty-seven Angus calves to market, I sent them with words to the effect that they hopefully would become the essential nutrition for scientist that would discover a cure for cancer or a person that would perform a great act and get the Nobel Peace prize.  Chris Clarke of Coyote Crossing Blog has written post after post and started pressure groups to slow down the terrible effects upon the tortoise and wildlife in the Mojave Desert with the construction of the huge solar complex.  Hundreds of others in the blogosphere write similar pieces and attest to the preciousness of all living things.

It sounds primitive and mystical, “But this deer’s permission was not obtained.”  But it’s not.  The kicker in this whole excerpt of Waters is, “What have we done to ourselves?”

Things need not fall apart, but we have to keep the connections vibrant or they will indeed fall apart.  For those of us that buy at the supermarket, the first step toward keeping connections vibrant is to realize that we do not obtain our food from the supermarket.  The earth provides food, not H.E.B or Central Market.  Thinking that in all its ramifications will have us doing good things to ourselves and others.



The Frank Waters Foundation of Taos, New Mexico, provides grants for writers of Southwestern genre.  Frank Waters was nominated for a Nobel Prize during his lifetime.


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