People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)

This is a reprinted version of German translation of People of Darkness (as titled, Death of the Moles in German).


In Navajo social interactions, as well as in those of many other Native American cultures, "uncle" is a title of respect used to address an older male, regardless of actual familial connection. The familial term connotes the intimacy of a social group in which all members are believed to be connected, as well as the respect that is given to older generations.

Navajo country

An Anglicized reference to the what the Navajo would call Diné Bikéyah, the traditional Navajo homeland, which is roughly demarcated by the four sacred mountains of the San Francisco Peaks or Dook’o’oslííd to the west, Mount Hesperus or Dibé Nitsaa to the north, Blanca Peak or Sisnaajiní to the east, and Mount Taylor or Tsoodzil to the south. More a concept and a state of mind than a specific territorial reference, "Navajo country" is a romanticized evocation of the high desert and red mesa landscapes that fill the Four Corners regions of the Southwestern U.S.

Tony Hillerman's use of the term Navajo country throughout his Navajo detective series also shares a resonance with the 19th-century use of the term "Indian Country," a somewhat pejorative reference to the always-receding lands west of the expanding U.S. frontier. Indian Country was wild, unsettled, and ripe for the taking, once the indigenous populations had been subdued and removed. Although Hillerman was an advocate for rather than an enemy of the peoples whose cultures he sketched into his novels, it's telling that one of his most used resources was an American Automobile Association map entitled "Indian Country," a detailed map of the roads and routes on the Navajo Reservation.


A type of shoe or boot traditionally worn by Native American peoples. Moccasins were hand-made, using leather made of deer, moose, elk, or bison skin, and could have either soft or hard soles. Designs varied from group to group and depended on climate, terrain, and the moccasins' purpose and usage. Decorations such as embroidery, beads, fringes, or buttons added to the distinctive style of the moccasins.

In contemporary U.S. culture, moccasins can also refer to a style of shoe adapted from the original indigenous boots. Modern moccasins are a type of slip-on shoe that are casual and comfortable.

swivel chair

A chair whose seat rotates to face in any direction, usually used in office environments. Swivel chairs often also have wheels, to enable easy movement along wide desks and their close surroundings. For many years, Tony Hillerman sat in a swivel chair as he wrote as his rolltop desk.

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.

peyote moon

A peyote gathering of the Native American Church has a crescent-shaped moon drawn on the ground in sand that functions as the altar for the ceremony. This half-circle, which is located at one end of the service space (a hogan in the case of the Navajo), usually facing the door, symbolizes the "peyote road" of brotherhood, harmony, and healing. Within it, ritual tools and the sacramental peyote buttons are arranged according to the ceremonial tradition.

peyote ceremony

A sacred service in the tradition of the Native American Church, in which healing, spiritual cleansing, and vision quests are conducted through praying, chanting, and drumming, facilitated by the ingestion of peyote. Peyote is a hallucinogenic cactus that induces an altered state of consciousness believed to enhance connection with the spiritual realms. The peyote ceremony, which is also known as Peyote Way, usually lasts at least one night and can be performed regularly (once a moth, for example), or according to need, in cases when an individual suffers from acute illness or when the community faces an urgent challenge.


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.


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