Listening Woman (1978)

Listening Woman (1978)

Dinnehotso, AZ

A small community on the Navajo Reservation, located on Highway 160 in the northeastern corner of Arizona. In Navajo, the name Dennihotso means "A Yellow Meadow Extending Upward." The place was a summer camp site for some Navajo families, and between 1911 and 1915 a trading post was established in the village, which allowed for a more permanent settlement to grow around it. Small-scale farming was the main source of livelihood for Dennihotso families, and between 1940 and 1960 Uranium mining in the nearby Cane Valley provided employment as well, but after the decline of the mining industry the town experienced a significant depression. Today the trading post is closed, and many farms are idle as younger generations migrate to bigger towns in search of employment and a more modern lifestyle. According to the 2000 census the community's population was 734.


A rifle that shoots a 30-gauge, or calibre, bullet that was oiringally packed and fired with 30 grains of gun powder. In general, a .30-30 rifle is effective at killing mid-to large-sized game at mid-range shots. In other words, for folks who hunt for food, the .30-30 is an accessible tool for hunting game like deer and elk.


Approximately 56.2 million acres of land within the United States are designated as Native American reservations, areas of land set aside for the perpetual use of indigenous groups, many of whom were forcefully relocated onto them. Sometimes reservations are sited on land traditionally used by the people before conquest and colonization. In other cases, Native American reservations are located away from their traditional lands as a result of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th century federally-supported practices that expropriated natural resources, throughfares, and lands under the premises that the land was "vacant," its resources were not being properly exploited, and because of racial biases that privileged European settlement patterns based on ownership rather than fluid and multiple landuse practices.

Red Lake Trading Post, Arizona

Referred to simply as Red Lake in Hillerman's fiction, this small trading post and rest area off of US Highway 160 (referred to in the book by its former name, Navajo Route 1) sits below the rim of Black Mesa. It should not be confused with the actual body of water, Red Lake, to the east, on the Arizona-New Mexico border. The Trading Post was founded around 1878 in a town that is now known as Tonalea. The post is well known for its Navajo rugs.

A trading post is an establishment where goods can be traded. It is also a social center where news and gossip are exchanged. Trading posts have been associated with American frontier culture since seventeenth century. Overtime, trading posts developed into a cultural institution, at first funded and backed by empire, later by national interests, and most often by enterprising business men. Trading posts became centralized hubs in a network of exchange that both participated in and circumvented the burgeoning capitalist system that was imported into the Americas along with settler colonialism. Although trading posts were initially intended to provide support to the European traders and trappers who traced their way over the North American continent, Native American groups were also drawn into the posts' exchange network, trading furs, pelts, and even scalps for finished goods such as steel knives, firearms, woven textiles, and food stuffs, including alcohol. Although not every post was poorly managed, trading posts earned a nefarious reputation for taking advantage of Native traders, by offering poor exchange rates, trading with products that were infected with diseases, and promoting the purchase and use of alcohol. Many trading posts are still in existence, and in the Southwest, they still mark "the frontier," as they are located, as they have been for centuries, at the dividing line between wilderness, Indian country, and reservation lands, on the one hand, and settled, ordered, and contained "civilization," on the other hand. Today, however, trading posts can be reached by pickup truck, tourist RV, and even the occasional horse. Many trading posts are also preserved as National Historic Sites.

Red Forehead Clan

One of the clans of the Navajo people. There are at least sixty known Navajo clans, many of which are named after specific places located on or around what is today the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Red Forehead clan might be named not after a locality but after the red head of the Sandhill cranes that are commonly found along the rivers and marsh area of the American Southwest.


In Hillerman's Navajo detective fiction, "radioman" is an anachronistic reference to what are today known as dispatchers, individuals who work in a dispatch center to facilitate the transmission and tracking of information, often but not always during emergency responses to traffic accidents, natural disasters, and civil disturbances. Radiomen have a military origin that goes back to before World War I, when radio units consisted of "pack sets," which were so large that 10 men were needed to set-up and operate the equipment that was transported by 4 pack mules around the field of action. Over time, Radioman became a naval designation that was eventually merged with that of the Data Processing Technician, and eventually became the Information Systems Technician. Regardless of their title, the individuals who fill these positions are responsible for facilitating communication and, in the process, coordinating operations under the purview of their parent agency.


The layer of rock that tops some geological uplifts. Often seen in the form of a wall or cliff, rimrock forms a cap and sometimes even an overhang over the softer rock beneath, which, as it erodes, can create sculpturesque forms in the remaining geologic material, including caves.


A rifle is a firearm with an extended barrel that is generally raised up to the shoulder for firing. The interior surface of the long barrel is carved with spiral grooves down its length. The length of the barrel, in combination with its interior grooves, improves the accuracy of the shot fired by increasing the stability of the projectile as it spins out of the barrel. The rifle, as opposed to another long-barreled firearm, the shotgun, fires a single projectile at a time.


A continuous elevation of land that extends in a line between higher mountain peaks. Sometimes ridges descend from a higher peak toward lower elevations, giving a mountain a vertically-grooved appearance. Occasionally, ridges occur as singular components of the landscapes.


Resin is a liquid hydrocarbon secreted by some plants as a form of protection. If the plant is damaged, resin seeps from the wound, hardening as it dries into a protective layer. Natural resin can be harvested sustainably from trees, after which it is rendered into a variety of substances such as varnishes, glues, perfumes, and incense.

Dried resin, known as rosin, in a powdered form is used to increase friction between surfaces, such as between a bow and the strings of an instrument, or the hands of gymnasts and rockclimbers and the surfaces with which they engage. Rosin, which is also known as colophony, is a man-made substance that is produced by distilling the liquid resin until it condenses and solidifies. The final product can range in color; it is usually yellow or orange, but can be almost white or, alternately, close to black. While rosin is solid at room temperature, it melts easily and is used as an ingredient in a variety of products such as soaps, varnishes, adhesives, and sealing materials.

In Tony Hillerman's 1980 Navajo detective novel PEOPLE OF DARKNESS, rosin is mentioned in a natural setting, and probably refers to hardened resin rather than the chemically-produced substance.


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