Joe Leaphorn is a fictional character created by Tony Hillerman. Leaphorn is a Navajo detective for the Navajo Tribal Police stationed in Window Rock, Arizona. By his first appearance in The Blessing Way, Leaphorn is already a veteran detective for the police and he is good friends with Bergen Mckee. Leaphorn was educated in Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school during high school and then completed a bachelors and master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. This extended period outside of the reservation for schooling means that Leaphorn is somewhat familiar with Navajo rituals and white ways. Despite his lack of complete knowledge of Navajo rituals, Leaphorn is cognizant that Navajo beliefs are often important aspects of cases.
Leaphorn is known later in his career as the "Legendary Lieutenant", due to his ability to solve cases.
Leaphorn first introduced as a supporting character in The Blessing Way. He becomes the main character for Hillerman’s Navajo Mystery series with the next two books: Dance Hall of the Dead and Listening Woman. However, due to legal issues regarding rights to the character, Leaphorn is not used again in Hillerman novels until Skinwalkers. In the early novels Leaphorn work alone; however, in later novels he and, the much younger much more traditional, Jim Chee are tasked to be partners and solve cases together. Unlike Leaphorn, Chee is studying to be a Navajo singer and is much more sensitive to Navajo rituals. Unlike cheerful Jim Chee, Leaphorn's character is often described as grumpy and he is very set in his ways. These very different temperaments often cause tension between the two, but together they are able to solve cases