Hillerman writes with respect and knowledge about both the Navajos (as exemplified by Leaphorn and Chee) and the Hopis (the wonderfully named Cowboy Dashee, for example). In reading his books, you learn about this part of the country and its peoples--their beliefs, their ceremonies, their prayers, their homes, and their customs and traditions.
While I've been a fan for many years, here is what I’ve always wondered about Tony Hillerman: How accurately does he portray Native Americans and what do they think about his writing?
In searching for the answer to this question, the most helpful and complete biographical information that I have found so far online is from the Public Broadcasting System’s Mystery! web site. Here is a quote I found there: Although the tribe has named him a Special Friend of the Dineh [Navajo people] for his accurate portrayals of Navajo life, Hillerman still worries about getting it wrong. He reads copiously and runs his manuscripts by Navajo friends to check not only for accuracy, but for believability as well. He even had a Navajo English class in Shiprock consider a subplot he was planning to see if it would work. When the students said no, he junked it. "For me, studying the [Navajo] has been absolutely fascinating," Hillerman told Publishers Weekly, "and I think it's important to show [my readers that] aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane."
For a chronology of Hillerman’s books and reviews of each one: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/writers/writerdetails.asp?cid=92230
For information about the films that have been made from Hillerman’s books: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384917/
To get some insight into Hillerman’s character, his writing process, and how he
feels about the Navajo people, read the PBS Interview with Tony Hillerman: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/mystery/american/navajoland/hillerman_intv.html
See a video interview of Hillerman at http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3487
Tony Hillerman’s web site: http://www.tonyhillermanbooks.com/