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February 2023
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Hill Continues Native Storytelling Tradition with Anthology Series

Hill 1


The experience of higher education impacts the lives of students in multiple ways. For tribal member Terrell Hill, it was a sociology class assignment in 2001 that would place him on the path of being an author.


The assignment was for students to interview immigrant families to discuss the challenges they faced in being a part of American society. For Hill, however, his instructor at the University of Texas-Pan American tailored the assignment so that he could interview his grandparents, Donald Horsechief Miller (Wichita and Pawnee) and Mary Akoneto Miller (Kiowa), for their perspective.


"I heard the stories my entire life," Hill said. "When I came back for a college assignment and sat down, recorded them and heard stories I had never heard before, it just resonated with me. It blew my mind-this story my grandmother's telling me right now is something that her grandmother told her, that her grandmother probably told her. It goes on and on and on forever, as far back as you can go."


What Hill gained from his grandparents, as part of the assignment, was a deeper love and greater appreciation for Native stories as a whole. Eventually, the pursuit of learning traditional stories would place him in contact with elders throughout the country.


"It became more of a treasure hunt for me to record my grandparents and other tribal elders at different places I travel to," Hill said. "You're learning stuff that goes back no telling how far. For me, with my grandparents and the stories they told me, my cousins, my mom, my uncles and aunts, I think it's connection."

 Giant Wolf

By 2014, Hill began compiling his stories into a designed anthology series, working both as an author and illustrator, as well as creating Sky Lodge Publishing to see his work come to fruition. However, Hill said that completing the first book wasn't the final step. Instead, Hill went through 51 drafts with his print distributor, IngramSpark, before being ready. The first volume of his work,The Age of Myths and Legends Book One: Monsters, came out in print on August 9, 2017, listed under the name "T.D. Hill."


This first volume of 103 pages has multiple chapters dedicated to categories of supernatural beings that Native stories share in common. These include stories of giants, water creatures, Little People, cannibals, Deer Woman, and witches.


The chapter format begins with an overview that summarizes various tribes' stories, and then two detailed versions of a specific type of story. Each chapter also features a quote from other stories in world literature. These include quotes fromBeowulf andEnglish Renaissance playwright Christopher Marlowe'sTragedy of Doctor Faustus. Old Testament passages are also used to start off chapters, which include theBook of Genesis and Book of Job.


"When you're telling a story about monsters or ghosts, people tend to lean in a little bit and want to hear what you're talking about," Hill said. "That's also universal. I think people like to be scared a little bit. If you have a decent storyteller, it is a form of entertainment, but there's also lessons to be learned in those stories. I think that the idea of the supernatural, monsters and that type of stuff, is universal across the board."


Hill's choice of using "Myths and Legends" as part of the title of the series, he said, is "a tricky one," used as a way to market his work toward a wider audience outside of Indian Country.


"When I spoke to tribal elders, they don't call these stories 'myths and legends,' he said. "You can get into a lot of trouble with that-I found that out also with the older people. I use 'myths and legends' to convey to non-Natives what they were getting. For us, for where I was raised, when my grandmother would talk about stories, she would just call them the 'old stories.' When they would say 'you know, way back there,' that's when they started their stories. It was never 'once upon a time.'"


Hill Portrait


Hill's future plans with the series include a book each on the Hero, Trickster and Creation stories of various tribes. He eventually wants to see other authors be a part of the series and then step back to be an editor. In addition, Hill would also like to work with Wichita tribal elders on a collection that is specifically Wichita.


Hill is the son of Robbi and Donna Hill. In addition to his writing and illustration work, he co-runs a Chicago-based fitness company.


Hill credits his work ethic and job skills to his experiences as a Wichita tribal employee with the AOA, Food Distribution, Higher Education and Juvenile Services programs, as well as the Wichita Housing Authority.


At press time, Amazon had the e-book version available but only 14 editions available in print.


"I never could have imagined that it was going to be something that would be life-changing in a lot of ways," Hill said. "It's something that I'm looking to pursue more-not necessarily to make a living off of it, but in terms of trying to preserve and learn as many stories as I can."