Frank Waters; Author Wrote About the West

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Historian Frank Waters, author of more than two dozen books, died Saturday at 92.

Waters, whose father was half-Cheyenne, wrote about Native American culture and other aspects of the American West.

His book, "The Man Who Killed the Deer," was based on the trial of Frank Samora, a Taos Pueblo Indian fined for shooting a deer out of season in the Carson National Forest. The book influenced political leaders to return 48,000 acres of the tribe's sacred Blue Lake land.

Waters' other books included the 1963 bestseller "Book of the Hopi" and 1993's "Brave Are My People," a collection of biographies of 20 Indian leaders.

Waters, a former engineer and spokesman for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico during the Cold War, angered some fans of Western legend 35 years ago when he tarnished the myth of Wyatt Earp, the heroic frontier marshal, in his books "The Colorado" and "The Earp Brothers of Tombstone."

The historian wrote that the dashing lawman, subject of two feature films last year, was a con man, a gambler and a coward.

Waters also argued in several books that the golden myth of the West was actually an epic of cruel conquest.

"The whole westward expansion myth is seen as romantic," he said a few years ago. "But it's a joke, a blot on American history."

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