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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 16, 2002 - Issue 74


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CHP Officer Writes American Indian History Book

by Jo Moreland North Country Times
Editor's Note: Phil has graciously allowed "Canku Ota" to reprint "This Day in North American Indian History" since we began. We wish Phil all the best with his book.
Phil Konstantin, the officer known throughout San Diego County for his California Highway Patrol traffic reports, has a new book out titled, "This Day in North American Indian History," now being sold by DaCapo Press in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The book reflects Konstantin's pride in his Cherokee Indian heritage, and writing it was a scholarly endeavor for a man known for having a serious funny bone.

"I was always kind of cheering for the Indians at the movies," Konstantin said, smiling during an interview at his Clairemont home.

Sgt. Dave Dreher of the Oceanside patrol office has known Konstantin as a "real nice, easy-going guy" for more than a decade. He said he wasn't surprised that the officer had written a book.

"He is an intelligent person, very articulate," Dreher said.

Born in Houston in 1952, Konstantin's Indian blood came from his mother, Lila Konstantin. His father, Morris Konstantin, was a Harris County deputy sheriff.

"I wasn't raised in the old ways," Phil Konstantin said. "I always knew I was Cherokee. My mother was very proud of it."

He began working regularly when he was 11, selling popcorn and snacks at football games. At 14, Konstantin managed a concession stand in a movie theater.

Before he joined the CHP in 1985, he worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at a computer in the mission control complex during the Apollo 16 and 17 space flights; on coastal oil rigs; in radio broadcasting and in construction.

Konstantin has written more than 100 magazine and news articles, mostly about technology, space and law enforcement, but his interviews included authors such as Stephen King.

"He had a corny, corny sense of humor," Konstantin recalled. "We were cracking jokes back and forth."

Married and divorced twice, Konstantin has three children. His third wife, Robyn, died in a 1999 Texas car crash.

Although Konstantin started working on his book about 1986, he had to prove his direct blood line through his grandfather before he could receive tribal membership in the Cherokee Nation. It was granted in November 1996, after Konstantin was able to confirm his grandfather's middle name.

"We finally found a piece of paper at one of the Indian schools where my grandfather had done something wrong and they wrote a note to his parents," Konstantin said.

That kind of research was needed for the 480-page book, which includes North American Indian history over 5,000 years from Panama to Alaska. The format came to Konstantin as he leafed through a "Far Side" cartoon calendar.

"It occurred to me I'd never seen anything like this for American Indians," he said.

With so much of American Indian history passed down by word of mouth, rather than written, Konstantin began the daunting task of piecing together information. What developed is a book that includes much of North American history in general as it affected native peoples.

Konstantin discovered a link to his own ancestry, a great-grandfather who was in the Civil War, and he learned the frustrations of writing, finding a publisher and actually getting a book printed. It is selling for about $35 in stores, about $25 on-line.

Konstantin hasn't decided yet whether he will write another book.

"I have a stack of ideas, but I haven't committed myself to doing anything," he said. "It's nice not to have the self-imposed burden of having to do research. At the moment I'm just taking it easy and not doing anything. It has been the biggest adventure."

To order a copy of Phil's book and to visit his awesome website, click the link below:

On This Date in North American Indian History

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