Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)


A descriptive word meaning difficult, burdensome, or psychologically challenging.

muzzle (animal)

The elongated nose/mouth bone structure of the face of an animal such as a dog or a deer. The same word is also used for the fastening device that may be placed around an animal's mouth to prevent it from biting or to restrict eating.


The English word "taboo" originates in the Tongan term tapu, or the Fijian tabu. The term was originally translated into English as "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed." A taboo is generally a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too objectionable for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are agreed upon in a given society and often are understood as transgressions that are subject to punishment from the gods or other supernatural beings. Taboos are present in virtually all societies, and many are shared throughout the world, although the 19th-century psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suggested that incest and patricide were the only two universal taboos. According to recent research, however, while similarities do exist, there is no such thing as a universal taboo, and each cultural group has its own set of rules pertaining to acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.


A native plant to the U.S. Southwestern regions, the yucca is a member of the agave family, characterized by stiff, sword-like leaves. In the center of the yucca plant grow its long spikes that carry clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers. There are over forty species of yucca, and the indigenous peoples of the Southwest have a long history of utilizing the plant's thick, strong fibers in woven textiles and cords. Although woven yucca textiles are no longer in use, the cords remain vital elements in rituals. The Zuni people, for example, use these cords to tie prayer plumes and wands. The pulp and sap of the plant can also be used as a soap, especially for hair washing.

The yucca flower is the state flower of New Mexico.

callers of the Clouds

A picturesque yet literal reference to several Pueblo cultures, such as the Hopi and Zuni, who have many ceremonies surrounding rain and water. Although originally semi-nomadic, Puebloan culture altered over time into settled communities that cultivated fields of subsistence crops. Rain, therefore, held an especially important place in the traditions. Pueblo approaches to agriculture often include an idea of reciprocity in which the people feed spirits and pay reverence to the elements, and, in turn, they are given the rains necessary for growing staples such as corn, beans, and squash.

tribal jail

Tribal jails are correctional systems maintained by individual tribes and sovereign nations as part of their own Public Safety Departments or Departments of Corrections. As with non-tribal jails, tribal jails are locally-run short-term holding facilities, whereas prisons, at the state and federal levels, are detention centers for those serving longer sentences.

The Navajo system currently maintains several adult and juvenile correctional facilities. The correctional facilities in the Navajo Nation were established under the Navajo government in the 1990’s but there were federally-funded tribal jails built on the reservation in the 1960’s to the 1970’s. New facilities and associated services and infrastructure continue to be built around the reservation, adding to the original tribal jail in Window Rock. Navajo Nation jails can now be found in Tuba City, Crownpoint, and Kayenta, with plans for adding jails in Chinle and Ft. Defiance.


A piece of flat, U-shaped iron that is attached to a horse's hoof. Horseshoes are nailed to the hard surface of the bottom of the hoofs, reducing the risk of injury or wearing down, and allowing for long horse rides on a variety of terrains.

Because horseshoes were so ubiquitous at certain points in history, their shape provided the nomenclature for elements in the natural environment. For example, sharp turns in trails, roads, and rivers have been called oxbows, doglegs, and horseshoe bends.

death hogan

In Navajo culture, when a person dies inside a hogan, the traditional Navajo house, it is believed that the person’s spirit, known as “chindi,” can remain trapped in the built structure and potentially cause ghost-sickness, an affliction that can manifest in physical or mental illness. Because the Navajo take great care to avoid any contact with dead bodies and the deceased person’s possessions, generally when people are nearing the moment of death they are brought outside of the hogan to die in the open, which will release the chindi into world to disperse. In the case that someone does die indoors, the dwelling must then be vacated and abandoned, and the family constructs a new hogan elsewhere. In order to enable the release of the lingering chindi in the old hogan, a hole is created in the northern wall of the hogan. This hole also functions as a mark indicating that the structure is contaminated by death and is never to be inhabited again.

spark plug

In an internal combustion engine, the spark plug is a small device that produces electric sparks when the ignition key is turned. The electric sparks ignite the air/fuel combination in the combustion chamber, initiating the combustive force that powers the engine.

rifle rack

A shelf or set of hooks fitted to hang a rifle on. Rifle racks can be kept indoors or installed inside vehicles. In police or military vehicles, for example, they are usually mounted in a somewhat concealed place and yet within easy reach, often either in the front, above the windshield, or in the rear of the car, over the back window. On the other hand, it is very common to see rifle racks installed in the cab of pickup trucks, up behind the bench seat.


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