The Dark Wind (1982)

The Dark Wind (1982)

Littlewater, New Mexico

Littlewater translates to Tó ‘Áłts’íísí in Navajo. Littlewater is a small tribal chapter of the Navajo Nation location near Crownpoint, New Mexico. The Navajo Nation government system consists of five agencies (Chinle, Crownpoint, Fort Defiance, Shiprock, and Tuba City) with several local chapters within each agency. Each chapter has an administrative meeting place known as the chapter house, where the community gathers to discuss a variety of issues concerning life on the reservation. In the dedication to The Dark Wind, Tony Hillerman thanks the people of Littlewater, and given the context and proximity of the other place names mentioned, he is most likely is referring to this tribal chapter.

Wepo Wash, Arizona

Designated as a stream by the U.S. geological survey, this wash is a tributary of the larger Polacca Wash. It is located near First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation within Navajo County, Arizona.

Burnt Water, Arizona

Burnt Water, or Tó Díílidí in Navajo, is a sparsely populated area in Apache County, Arizona. This county has the most land designated to Native Reservations in the U.S. and includes the Navajo Nation Reservation, the Fort Apache Reservation, and the Zuni Reservation. A specific kind of Navajo woven rug has also been named after this place, which features bordered, geometric designs in pastel colors. There was a trading post in this location until 1983.


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. The Shalako messengers, personated by trained dancers, are depicted as very tall kachina who accompany the personated Council of the Gods in a ceremony that lasts all evening.

The participating members of the Zuni Council of Gods and their retinue enter Zuni on the evening of the Shalako ceremony in a very specific order. First enters Shulawitsi (Fire God), accompanied by a ceremonial "father" who has tended a sacred juniper fire in the days prior to the ceremony. Second enters Sayatasha (Rain God from the North), wearing a mask with a turquoise horn sweeping out from the right side of his face. Third is Hu-tu-tu (Rain God from the South), followed by two Yamukato protector warriors, one from the East and one from the West. Two Salamobia enforcers with their beaked masks, ruffed necks, and yucca whips bring up the rear, followed finally the giant Shalako. The six Shalako figures enter the pueblo at sunset, accompanied by their attendants, and tower over the attendees and participants, as their giant beaked masks make these dancers rise to about nine feet tall.

Preparations for the next Shalako begin as soon as the current year’s celebration is over, and involve the entire community. On the one hand, the ceremony marks several days of concentrated spiritual observance and ritual practice; on the other, Shalako remains a vital and active presence in the Zuni pueblo’s daily life all year long.


In French, the term cul-de-sac literally means "bottom of the bag." In English it usually refers to a dead-end street, but can also be applied to any pathway, for example a rock crevice, that only has one opening and is closed at the other end.


A rock formation in which the top part protrudes forward horizontally to hang over the vertical parts of the rock face.

Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico

The Rio Grande is the largest river flowing through the state of New Mexico, and the valley surrounding it has provided much-needed water and sustenance to the various cultures that have occupied the region over the millennia. The greater Rio Grande Basin stretches over 1,500 miles from southern Colorado in the north to southern Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The Middle Rio Grande Valley refers specifically to the segment of the river that passes through central New Mexico: from Cochiti Pueblo in the north, through the metropolitan area of Albuquerque, to San Marcial in the south. When looking at the Albuquerque area, the high desert river valley lies 5,000 feet between the Sandia Mountains in the east, and the rising mesas just west of the city.


Windmills are structures that use spinning vanes, sales, or blades in order to convert the force of wind into energy and/or power. Different versions of the windmill have been used for centuries. Before the widespread use of electricity, windmills were used to mill grain and pump water. More recently, windmills in the format of wind turbines have been used as a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly tool for generating electricity.

A specific water-pumping windmill on joint-use territory land between the Hopi and Navajo reservations becomes the subject of major conflict in Hillerman's novel The Dark Wind. This windmill is occasionally referred to by its very specific identifier: Windmill Number 6.

smoke hole

In the traditional construction of a hogan, the Diné dwelling house, a hole is cut in the roof in order to let smoke from the hearth fire below out of the room. The hole is usually placed off-center and aligned above the rock slab that serves as a hearth so that as the smoke rises it leaves the residence. In later, more modern hogans, flues that facilitated the removal of smoke directly from the rock-slab or adobe hearth have replaced the hole in the roof.

Borrego Pass, New Mexico

An unincorporated community of the Navajo Nation located in McKinley County, NM. The Spanish name Borrego, meaning "yearling lamb," corresponds with the Navajo name, Dibé Yázhí Habitiin, meaning "ascending lamb trail." This small town originally formed around a trading post that no longer operates there.


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