The Boy Who Made Dragonfly (1972)

The Boy Who Made Dragonfly (1972)


In Navajo social interactions, as well as in those of many other Native American cultures, "uncle" is a title of respect used to address an older male, regardless of actual familial connection. The familial term connotes the intimacy of a social group in which all members are believed to be connected, as well as the respect that is given to older generations.


A type of shoe or boot traditionally worn by Native American peoples. Moccasins were hand-made, using leather made of deer, moose, elk, or bison skin, and could have either soft or hard soles. Designs varied from group to group and depended on climate, terrain, and the moccasins' purpose and usage. Decorations such as embroidery, beads, fringes, or buttons added to the distinctive style of the moccasins.

In contemporary U.S. culture, moccasins can also refer to a style of shoe adapted from the original indigenous boots. Modern moccasins are a type of slip-on shoe that are casual and comfortable.

Turkey Clan

In Native American social structures, a clan is an interrelated social group whose connections derive from parentage as well as kinship. Clan configurations develop and are expressed uniquely in different indigenous groups, and each tribe is comprised of numerous various clans. Clan names often originate in the natural environment of the tribe’s homeland, and refer to place names, fauna and flora, or significant natural phenomena.

The Turkey Clan is probably named after the bird that is commonly found across Southwestern parts of the U.S. The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and other pueblo peoples all have a clan by that name as part of their greater system of familial and kinship structures.

Zuni River, Arizona and New Mexico

A small and mostly ephemeral river flowing southwest from its headwaters near the continental divide, where it runs through the Zuni Mountains in western New Mexico, to meet the Little Colorado River in eastern Arizona. The river passes through the Zuni Reservation and for centuries has been central to the Zuni people’s way of life, which included cultivating corn, beans, and squash, and raising livestock.


Traces or evidence of movement left in the outdoors, typically on the ground, whether by animal, human, or machine. In the context of Hillerman's novels, a track can refer to temporary marks and clues, as well as to an existing path that runs through the natural environment. Such a path can be a narrow one that is used by animals, especially herds of deer, sheep, or cattle, or it can be a wider, unpaved road that has formed as a result of vehicles passing through the same route over the course of many years. In the rural parts of the U.S. Southwestern regions, such country tracks are fairly common.

Track can also mean to look for or follow the physical evidence of an occurrence, whether the movement of an animal or the clues left behind as a result of criminal activity.

Shalako Messenger Birds

In Tony Hillerman's 1972 retelling of the Zuni myth THE BOY WHO MADE DRAGONFLY, he makes reference to the Shalako Messenger Birds. In the tradition of the Zuni people of the American Southwest, Shalako refers both an annual winter solstice ceremony, as well as to spirit deities perceived as giant, beaked messengers to the gods. Six Shalako messengers, one for each cosmic direction (the four cardinal directions as well as one for above and one for below), carry prayers from the Zuni people to the gods all year long. After the fall harvest, close to the winter solstice, as the year transitions from old to new, the Shalako ceremony takes place. It includes dances, prayers, remembrance of ancestors, and ritual blessings for health and fertility. Hillerman's mention of the Shalako Messenger Birds is most likely a reference to the Shalako messengers, personated by trained dancers, who are very tall kachina accompanying the personated Council of the Gods. These six dancers enter the pueblo at sunset, accompanied by their attendants, and tower over the attendees and participants, as their giant beaked masks make dancers rise to about nine feet tall.


A stick, rod, or baton, sometime imbued with symbolic significance. Can be used as a weapon for striking or even throwing.

Wand can also refer to any long, slender object, such as radio antennae, pointers, and even lacrosse sticks and metal detectors.

roof hole

A roof hole is a hole in the roof of traditional pueblo structures. These holes allowed air and light to come into the dwelling and smoke to exit the dwelling, but primarily they were used to gain access to interior spaces. Until the Pueblo were influenced by European building styles, their structures did not have ground floor doors. Instead, access to interior spaces was through roof holes, using light-weight ladders that were raised and lowered as needed.

In many ways, this design echoes the way that sacred kivas are entered, through the roof, whether the kiva is erected above ground or built underground. This descent into an interior space is evocative of the Pueblo emergence from the center place of the world, through the narrow passage called the sipapu through which the people climbed at the end of their many-staged journey to the present world.

Bow Priest

Chosen by the Pekwin or head priest, the Bow priests are a warrior society linked to the cult of Ahayuda, the Zuni twin war gods. The Bow Priests care for the shrine of Ahayuda and are responsible for any depictions of the gods. The Bow Priests are conspicuous in Zuni cosmology and in the first world, it was the Bow Priests who planted the prayer stick that allowed the people to climb out into daylight, provided corn for eating and carved the hands, feet, mouth and anus of the newly emerged people. During the full moon in March, the Bow Priests honor Ahayuda by making prayer sticks. In the past, two Bow Priests were assigned to the Pekwin priestly hierarchy, to the kachina society, to the medicine society: 12 esoteric fraternities in all. As the Ahayuda are always portrayed as twins, the Bow Priests are paired as their representatives on earth. The Bow Priests organize the ceremonial calendar and choose the people marked to impersonate gods during the year ahead. They guard the secrets of rituals and act as hosts for ceremony, sprinkling sacred corn meal and leading the masked gods into the plaza.

The Bow Priests are the only priests in Zuni who attend to the civil problems of war and internal aggression, and are responsible for punishing intruders and for regulating adherence to the Zuni faith and moral codes. The Bow priests continue to be influential into modernity. In the early 1970s, two Bow Priests, Victor Niihi and Dexter Cellicion realized that A'hayuta stolen from shrines were on exhibit in the Denver Museum and attempts at reparations were made. The Bow Priests were chosen for this task because of their role as mediator between the mundane and the sacred, and over 100 sacred Ahayuda objects have been returned to the Zuni nation.


The baptismal font is a large basin on a raised pedestal, and has a primary place in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The fonts are often quite ornate, made of materials like marble or brass, and are sometimes large enough for full immersion of the baby. During the Second Vatican of the Catholic Church greater attention to the font was encouraged and pumps for water circulation were added to simulate the flow of rivers and streams as visually demonstrative of God's natural bounty.


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