Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)


A continuous elevation of land that extends in a line between higher mountain peaks. Sometimes ridges descend from a higher peak toward lower elevations, giving a mountain a vertically-grooved appearance. Occasionally, ridges occur as singular components of the landscapes.


In traditional Native American cultures, "religion" is an alien concept. Rather than religion, these traditional societies acknowledge, respect, and participate in what can be understood as a reciprocal relationship between the individual and other individuals, the community, nature and natural phenomenon, and sacred beings. This reciprocity has attained the level of ceremony and spiritual tradition over centuries of observance. It has also been augmented, and sometimes replaced, by the imposition of Christianity, especially, although not exclusively, Catholicism.

When Tony Hillerman writes "Zuni religion," for example, he is referring to the traditional Zuni way, one that predates Christianity or European influence.


The common raven is a large, heavy-billed black bird. Ravens are larger than crows and have more rugged plumage. Ravens are also the largest perching bird, and can have a wingspan of more than 4 feet. Ravens are very intelligent birds and are known to collect shiny objects. Ravens are scavengers, unlike crows, and are drawn to carrion. As a result, various cultures have associated them with death. Ravens are found in deserts, forests and mountainous areas around the world.

In Navajo teaching, a "two-faced" creature was responsible for both the creation of the world and for bringing death into that same world. Along with coyote, rattlesnake, and spider, raven is considered a "two-faced" creature.


A word that refers to noisy, boisterous behavior.

Ramah, New Mexico

Originally settled by Mormon pioneers, who intended to perform missionary work in Zuni and Navajo communities, Ramah sits between the Zuni and Ramah Navajo Reservations. The town was initially intended to be both a spiritual and agricultural center. It currently provides direct access to the Cibola National Forest, El Morro and El Malpais National Monuments, a wolf sanctuary, and a seasonal farmer's market with close ties to the town's original pastoral inhabitants.

Rain God of the North (Saiyatasha, Siatasha, or Sayatasha)

One of the members of the Zuni Council of the Gods, Sayatasha, or Longhorn, wears a mask that bears a long sweeping horn. The horn is evocative of the trailing walls of rain and virga that accompany the monsoonal flows that swing around from the North in the American Southwest, making the horned appearance of Sayatasha one associated with life-giving force and deep appreciation, rather than one of monstrosity.


An individual who is authorized to perform as a mediator between the people and a transcendent power. The priest's authority enables him or her to perform in both a spiritual and administrative capacity within his belief system's influence and jurisdiction.

radio transmitter

A device that emits electromagnetic waves. These waves can be used to transmit sound at different frequencies, and the sound is picked up by radios tuned to those frequencies. The radio transmitter was first created in 1887 by German physicist Heinrich Hertz and the first music signal transmitted via radio waves was in 1906 in Boston, Massachusetts. Radio transmitters are still in use today, especially in remote areas with limited telephone capabilities.

rabbit bush or brush

A pleasant smelling small shrub with hairy branches and groups of yellow flowers found across the American Great Basin. It provides nesting and cover to small birds and jackrabbits. The Navajo make yellow dye from the flowers.


A place from which large amounts of stone have been extracted, often leaving a deep pit and a fragmented landscape.


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