Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

New Mexico State Police

A division within New Mexico's Department of Public Safety, the New Mexico State Police Force maintains 12 district stations in the state. The department began as a motor patrol in 1933 to address the need for law enforcement with statewide jurisdiction. The State Police recruits and trains cadets at the law enforcement academy in Santa Fe, emphasizing core values of respect, excellence, service, pride, ethics, courtesy and teamwork.

As a state-wide agency, the New Mexico State Police have jurisdiction over both interstate and state highways, demanding close collaboration with other agencies around the state, whose jurisdictions overlap these travel systems. Such agencies include tribal and sovereign police forces, as well as municipal agencies associated with towns and cities.


The wild turkey is a large bird that is native to the Americas and is common to the U.S. Southwest. It typically nests and forages in woodlands, staying close to the ground, as it cannot fly farther than about a quarter of a mile at a time. Turkeys were sacred in many Native American cultures associated with the U.S. Southwest, the long valley of the Rio Grande, and northern Mexico. Turkeys were appreciated for their "jeweled" fan tails, a display vibrantly-colored tail feathers. They were also valued for their pride, beauty, abundance, and fertility. These characteristics were associated with seasonal harvest festivals, when the bird was often sacrificed as a symbol of renewal, fertility, and longevity in the community.


A ruff is a conspicuous ring of feathers or fur found around the neck of various animal species. A manmade ruff is used in the human world to adorn revered figures such as kings and queens, or in the case of Native American cultures, shamans and healers. It is meant in all cases to draw attention and to signify power, prestige, importance, and virility.

In the Pueblo cultures of the U.S. Southwest, many kachinas (spirit beings) are depicted with thick ruffs around their necks.


A daily phenomenon that has special resonance in the Four Corners area of Southwestern U.S.. Although sunsets, occurring as they do all over the world every evening, are a common occurrence, because of the Southwest region's general latitude (roughly between 25 and 40 degrees North) and generally clear atmospheric conditions, skywatching, especially sunsets, is a regional practice. Deep purple to black silhouettes of striking cactus and geologic formations contrast with the ephemeral and splendid bursts of rich roses, oranges, and cerruleans that sweep and deepen from the western horizon to the observer's vantage point.

cirrus clouds

Cirrus clouds form high in the atmosphere and are blown into their characteristic wispy streamers by high winds aloft. Cirrus clouds signal a change in the weather in the near future, as they are a sign of moisture in the air and of atmospheric disturbance.


Ritual and spiritual warrior kachina figures who play an important role in the Zuni winter solstice ceremonial of Shalako. There is one Salamobia for each of the six Zuni kivas, but only two of the warrior figures are selected to accompany the Council of the Gods during Shalako: one who represents the Zenith, or Above, and another who represents the Nadir, or Below. Wielding yucca whips or wands, the Salamobia maintain order, both literally and figuratively, during the ceremony. Although the mask and body of each Salamobia is painted distinctively to represent its specific kiva, the general costume among all six remains the same: a crow feather ruff, a short kilt, and a yucca wand.

Zuni Tribal Sawmill, New Mexico

A sawmill that was established on the Zuni Pueblo Reservation in western New Mexico in the early 1900s as part of a conservation initiative intended to restore damaged forests of ponderosa pine and juniper. Selected biomass was to be removed from the forest, allowing the silvicultural management of a sustainable timber resource whose proceeds would benefit the tribe. Today the modernized sawmill is known as the Pueblo of Zuni Forest Products & Services, a logging enterprise that operates in collaboration between the Zuni Department of Natural Resources and the Cibola National Forest, with the purpose of maintaining healthy forests on Zuni lands and providing timber for homes that are built on the reservation.

Zuni Wash, Arizona and New Mexico

In Tony Hillerman's 1973 Navajo detective novel DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD, Zuni Wash is a reference to the mostly dry river bed of the Zuni River. The Zuni River and its dry river bed, or wash, run southwest from the Zuni Mountains and across the Zuni Reservation until they join with the Little Colorado River just northwest of St. John's, Arizona.

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.

Deputy to the Sun

This is one of the titles for the role a young Zuni man performs when participating in the Shalako ceremony, which takes place around the winter solstice. The winter Shalako marks several days of concentrated spiritual observance and ritual practice meant to invite protective spirits into the community, so that sustenance and fertility are ensured. The main ceremony lasts a full night, and involves trained dancers wearing masks and personating the kachina spirits. The Deputy to the Sun, also known as the Little Fire God, is one of these dancers, and his duty is to follow the path laid out by the Sun Father deity, praying for rain, health, and prosperity for the people. The Deputy to the Sun is usually a young novice being initiated into the sacred rituals of the Zuni. Preparations for serving his duty include purifying the body, the heart, and the mind of interfering influences by observing celibacy and refraining from negative thoughts and emotions such as anger and aggression.


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