Born in the Horse Lake area of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in the far northern region of New Mexico, Veronica Elaine Velarde Tiller grew up immersed in the language, culture, and traditions of her tribe as well as the western life style of cattle ranching, horses, and rodeos. Losing her father in 1954 when she was six years old, Veronica grew up on the reservation with her mother, two brothers and five sisters, speaking Apache at home and listening to her own oral history as handed down by her grandparents. From them she learned that her paternal grandfather had been a great chief of the Ollero clan of the Jicarilla Apache and a half-brother to Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Utes of Colorado, both of whom were instrumental in the establishment of the Jicarilla Reservation in 1887. Her grandfather impressed upon her the family tradition of serving the tribe in some significant way. She decided to tell her tribe’s history as one way of fulfilling that obligation to her family and her tribe.
Veronica spent her early school years at the government-run Indian boarding school on the reservation, and summers on the family ranch on the southern portion of the reservation some sixty miles from the tribal headquarters. From an early age she helped her brothers tending horses and working cattle on the family ranch. Her version of having fun was riding horses and going to rodeos.
In 1966, after graduating from Albuquerque Valley High School, Veronica entered the University of New Mexico when the war in Viet Nam and the civil rights movement were roiling the nation. Her interest in writing the history of her own people was encouraged by Dr. Richard Ellis who soon became her mentor in the world of academic scholarship. Her confidence grew that she could, in fact, make a difference in both the scholarly portrayal of American Indian history infused with the perspective of Indian people themselves.
With Dr. Ellis’ help, she was accepted into UNM‘s Department of History graduate program, earning her Master’s Degree in 1973. As a Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellow, she earned a Ph.D in 1976. Her first publication was about her tribe in the Smithsonian’s Handbook of North American Indians. Her dissertation became her first monograph, The Jicarilla Apache Tribe: A History 1846-1970, (1983), a scholarly history of her tribe. In 1992, the University of Nebraska Press published an updated version of this book. BowArrow Publishing is now the publisher of this book. It is distributed by UNM Press.
TILLER RESEARCH, INC.
From 1976 to 1980, she taught American Indian History at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. On a research trip to Washington, D.C., to look into the role Indian tribes were playing or could play in the country’s response to the Arab oil embargo of 1973, she decided there was a role to be filled in placing American Indian tribes more fully into the mainstream American economy as players and not as resource-rich domestic colonies. She resigned her position at the University of Utah, moved to DC, and launched a 35-year career as the sole proprietor of Tiller Research, Inc. (TRI). She later added BowArrow Publishing Company as a division of TRI in order to bring her own and others’ scholarly works to the public. TRI remains her wholly owned small business specializing in interdisciplinary social science research, litigation support services, professional meeting facilitation, and writing and publishing services.
TRI has been in business for 35 years serving Indian tribes, organizations, private companies, and federal and state agencies.
During this time, she has produced many scholarly reports for Indian tribes in managing natural resources, including forest histories (the first step in developing a forest management plan) to historic water uses (critical in establishing aboriginal water rights claims in the arid west where first-in-time often means first-in-right). Her work bridging historic contacts with contemporary cultures has also led her to appear as an expert witness in a homicide case involving relations between Hispanic and Indian communities. She has issued produced reports on tribal economic development, including Economic Contributions of Indian Tribes to the Economy of Washington State, which TRI conducted for all of the 27 Indian tribes of Washington for the Washington Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs in 1998.
PUBLISHING TILLER’S GUIDE TO INDIAN COUNTRY
In 1996, she issued the first edition of her renowned Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country: Economic Profiles of American Indian Reservations, which has been cited by the United States Supreme Court for its demographic information. It was a finalist in the reference category for the Small Press Book Awards in 1997. In 2005-2006, her BowArrow Publishing Company issued a second edition of Tiller’s Guide, which still sells to government agencies, academic institutions, and enterprises interested in developing prospects in “Indian Country.” A review in the Washington Post stated categorically that Tiller’s Guide belongs in every library shelf in the country. This second edition was the winner of New Mexico Book Awards in 2007 in the reference category. As of October 2015, the 3rd edition of Tiller’s Guide will be available in the hardbound version. This edition is distributed by the University of New Mexico Press. An e-book version will also be available following the hardbound copy.
She has lectured on tribal economic development issues throughout the U.S. and France at the University of Paris, the University of Grenoble, and the United Nations (UNESCO). Throughout 2013, 2014, and 2015, she was invited to speak at various economic development conferences in the United States. See the Events page for details.
The most recent of her works is a chapter on ‘New Mexico Indian Tribes and Communities’, in Fred Harris’ edited work: New Mexico 2050 (August, 2015) published by the University of New Mexico Press. In 2011 her book, The Culture and Customs of Apache Indians was published by Greenwood Press, an imprint of ABCCLIO in its series on Culture and Customs of Native Peoples in America. In 2013 she and Mary M. Velarde produced a photographic history of their tribe, The Jicarilla Apache of Dulce, published by Arcadia Publishing Company in its Images of America series. She has written numerous chapters in books on Native American history, culture, and tribal economics, as well as articles, journals, and newsletters.
Still active in the cultural and political affairs of her tribe, she lives in Albuquerque with her husband David Harrison, and when she can find the time enjoys golf, movies, reading biographies, and travel here and abroad. Her daughters Emmie and Christina are busy making lives of their own. Veronica now devotes as much of her time as possible to playing with her grandson.
After completing the two-year long project on updating the 3rd edition of Tiller’s Guide, she is ready for new projects. There are at least several projects that she will be working on: her memoir and a biography of James Garfield Velarde (1860s to 1960s), Ollero Chief of the Jicarilla Apaches. Her college years is recalled in an article in the America Indian Graduate Center magazine for the fall of 2014. The complete article can be found at: http://issuu.com/americanindiangraduatecenter/docs/aigc_fall_2014 In addition she is interested in continuing to encourage Native Women to write their stories, creating historical and social science curriculum materials for use in the New Mexico public schools, and publishing Native American books.