Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Robert Boissiere



Honored July, 1991

Robert Boissiere

Crossing the enormous distance in miles and between cultures, Robert Boissiere followed his lifelong fascination with Native American people. He lived on the Hopi Reservation in the Arizona desert.

By his seventies, the Frenchman was able to say he was "more Hopi than white man." His search for his "missing" Indian self led him to become an intermediary between the Indian and non-Indian worlds.

Born in Paris in 1914, Robert was educated as a lawyer and twice decorated for valor while serving with the French Army in World War II. During the war, he was taken prisoner by the Germans but escaped after a year and a half. He headed west in 1946, as soon as the war ended.

As a child in France, Robert had dreamed of American Indians, read everything he could find, and dressed in a Sioux "costume" at family gatherings. Later, while living in San Francisco he met Paul Coze, the French consul in Phoenix, an artist, and an authority on Southwest Indians. Coze invited him to serve as cook on an art expedition to Hopi. When the trip ended, Robert stayed on; he simply "didn't want to come back." Arriving there "it immediately felt like coming home." Robert ended up living with a Hopi family for two years, beginning to learn the Hopi way.

The author of several books on Hopi religion, culture, and folklore, including Meditations with the Hopi and The Hopi Way: An Odyssey, Robert says, "I wanted from the start to become native myself. I didn't want to change them, I didn't want to teach them. I wanted to be a member of a family."

In 1951, he married a Taos Pueblo woman, Mary Santanita Romero, and went to live at Taos Pueblo. Later on, he became known as the proprietor of Chez Robert, a restaurant in Cuyamungue. In 1991, he was part of the entourage of the Dalai Lama on his visit to Santa Fe.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes