The Dark Wind (1982)

The Dark Wind (1982)


The temporary state of a person's physical and mental functions being impaired by the over-consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The history of alcohol use by Native Americans is a long and tortured one. Alcohol was introduced to many North American tribes by European settlers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, first as an item of trade and later as a substance that was intended to deliberately interfere with the groups’ traditional way of life. Alcohol has been and continues to be extensively "abused" by Native Americans on and off reservations, and the reasons for this abuse are many, and include problems of social, political, and financial nature. None of these reasons, however, can nor should be linked to a supposed indigenous or cultural predilection toward drunkenness. Instead, the effects of poverty, isolation, and lack of educational and other resources are the stimuli that engender alcohol abuse in Native American populations.

In his Navajo detective novels, Tony Hillerman notes both the beauty and the darkness he saw in the Southwest. Substance abuse, physical violence, greed, and crime were examples of the darkness he found; expressions of individual and cultural imbalances whose root causes he depicts as originating in modern U.S. society, rather than as organic to Native communities.


An anachronisitic reference to an individual who uses mind-altering substances recreationally.

"Dope" itself is slang for marijuana, so a doper often, but not exclusively, refers to one who smokes marijuana on a regular basis. Depending upon the context, dope can also refer to heroin. Finally, in more contemporary usage, if something is "dope," then it is good, cool, awesome.


To skip, avoid, leave, or refuse to participate in an event or activity. One can ditch school or one's acquaintances by leaving them behind or by never showing up to begin with.

In this sense, ditch can also mean leaving something behind.


An individual who dispatches, or facilitates, the exchange of information, typically via radio transmission. Dispatchers usually work at a central hub of an organization through which the organization's members channel information as it is acquired and processed.

In his Navajo detective novels, Tony Hillerman sometimes uses the anachronism "radioman" when referring to a dispatcher.


More often spelled "Diné," Dinee can be translated from the Navajo language as "the People." Diné is also how the Navajo refer to themselves. The Diné are the largest federally recognized Native American group in the United States. Their reservation is spread out throughout the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, and includes portions of the states of Arizona, New Mexico,and Utah.

The Diné base their way of life on a belief that the physical and spiritual world blend together and everything on earth is alive, related, and in equilibrium or ho′zho′. In this light, they observe two primary ceremonials, among many others. The first is the Blessing Way, which keeps them on the path of wisdom and happiness. The second is the Enemy Way, which is meant to discourage evil spirits, eliminate ghosts, and cleanse an individual of elements or affects that have placed her or him out of balance.

deputy sheriff

A deputy sheriff is subordinate to the sheriff, often operating as the second-in-command.

A sheriff is generally an elected position and is the highest law enforcement officer of a county. In some cases, the sheriff and his staff may function as the police force. In larger, urban communities, the sheriff's role may be confined to superficial or political posturings, or may be used to support juridical functions in support of the county's court system. In some cases, the position of sheriff has been merged with that of the chief of police, meaning that the sheriff occupies both a political as well as a disciplinary position. In either case, a deputy will tend to function at an operational level, either alone or along with a cohort of other deputies, to enforce the policies, directives, and tactical assignments established by the sheriff.


Because of its prevalence throughout the Southwest, Hillerman is probably referring to the mule deer, named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. There are several additional subspecies of deer, including the black-tailed deer. Unlike the related white-tailed deer, mule deer are generally more associated with the land west of the Missouri River, and more specifically still with the Rocky Mountain region of North America.


In many Native American cultures, dancing is a common part of spiritual, communal ceremonies. Dancing can be a form of supplication to spirits or deities, for purposes that includes seasonal festivities, celebratory events, healing rituals, or the blessing of certain feats such as important battles or hunting trips. While dance is a common practice among various Native American groups, the form these dances take changes between cultures, as do traditions regarding who is permitted to perform them.

Among the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, some of the most common dances are the masked kachina dances. Kachinas are guardian spirits, often associated with dead ancestors, who are believed to reside in a separate but parallel realm. According to traditional lore, kachinas return to the pueblo villages during special ceremonies. Ritual dances, in which the dancers don sacred kachina masks and embody the kachina spirit, are performed in order to invite and please the spirits. The dances often involve offerings and reverence for which the kachinas, in return, would guarantee protection and sustenance for the community, especially through bringing the rains needed for raising crops. In Puebloan cultures, both men and women can participate in ceremonial dances, although women are often excluded from surrounding spiritual practices, such as kiva societies' gatherings. Little boys who are initiated into kiva societies are often taught the dances before they have a chance to even learn the prayers.


In his Navajo detective novels, Tony Hillerman refers to both the regular dog-like wild animal found throughout the contiguous American continents and to Coyote, the trickster figure in Navajo cosmologies, for which the animal and its anthropomorphized character is the inspiration.

In Navajo mythology, Coyote (or First Coyote) is a trickster or troublemaker. He is often referred to as First Angry or First Scolder and is said to have brought witchcraft into the world. He appears in many stories both as a trickster who cannot be trusted and as a sexual being who tricks others in order to get his way. He is a main character of the Navajo creation story.

corpse powder

Corpse powder, also known as corpse poison, is reputedly derived from the remains of a dead human body and used by Navajo witches to produce sickness in intended victims. According to some versions of traditional Navajo beliefs, people who come into contact with a human corpse are likely to become ill physically, mentally, or both, which is why even today there remains a reticence toward dealing with or even speaking about the dead. Witches who intend to cause harm to another person can secretly feed corpse powder to their enemies or blow it in their faces. By infecting victims with this powder, the witch effectively contaminates them by literally exposing them to death.


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