People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)

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.


Slug is a vernacular expression often used to describe bullets. Slug is also a specific reference to a bullet without its cartridge. The cartridge of a piece of ammunition contains the casing, which holds the gun powder and the slug, whereas the slug consists of the metal projectile only.

long-barreled rifle

One of the first firearms to be used in warfare, the long-barreled rifle is characterized by its extended barrel, and is an early example of modern rifling technology in which spiral grooves inside the barrel's bore allow for greater accuracy and increased stability of bullet trajectory. It used to be a common personal weapon utilized in warfare, but now is mostly used for hunting.

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.


A sing is another way of referring to something as formal as a Navajo healing ceremony, as well as something as intimate as an individual prayer, because the use of songs or chants is a central element of Navajo spirituality. There are nearly 100 Navajo healing sings of varying range and intricacy, each originating from the Navajo Creation Story. These formal sings are so nuanced and complex that a Navajo singer, also known as a hataałii, learns only one or two sings over many years of apprenticeship. Sings can last anywhere from one to nine days and can include chants, songs, prayers, lectures, dances, sweat baths, the use of prayer sticks, and the creation of sand paintings. Of course, prayers and observances that are sung by individuals on a daily basis might last only a few seconds and involve merely the ability to observe, appreciate, and maybe sprinkle a few grains of corn pollen.

Other Native American traditions also have ceremonies, traditions, and healing practices in which songs are significant components. Hillerman mentions Hopi singing in some of his novels, for example. The Hopi believe strongly that these dances and songs, when combined in the proper way, work to give them a good life full of rain for agriculture and therefore success and prosperity for the people.


Snakes are limbless reptiles. Some snakes are venomous, meaning they are able to inject their prey with poison, while most snakes are not. Found on almost every continent, snakes are also found as iconic elements in human culture. Mankind's fascination with the snake's ability to shed its skin, its abilities to travel through multiple elements (earth, air, water), its provocative stare, and even its shape have led some cultures to worship the snake, while others maintain a profound aversion if not fear toward it.

In some versions of Navajo mythology, for example, the diving heron brought witchcraft to the Earth’s surface. First Woman gave bits of witchcraft to different beings, and when she gave it to rattlesnake, he had to eat it as he had no hands. This led the rattlesnake to be poisonous, and snakes in general are considered powerful creatures toward which strict taboos are maintained.


A plant from the nightshade family. The leaves are cured by drying or fermenting and then smoked or chewed. Tobacco is a plant species indigenous to the Americas and, similar to other nightshade species, has a history of cultivation and use for ceremonial purposes among many indigenous cultures throughout the Americas.

sand painting

Also known as sandpaintings or dry paintings, sand paintings (or iikááh in Navajo) are created by a medicine man (or Hataałii in Navajo) for ceremonial purposes. Sand paintings are created by pouring colored sands, crushed dried plants, crushed stone, or other powdered pigments onto the ground. Sand paintings are generally symbolic representations of different stories in Navajo mythology and are created in conjunction with the performance of certain chants. Navajo sand paintings began as an integral part of religious and healing ceremonies rather than as art for art’s sake. However, many Navajo artists currently produce sand paintings for the commercial art market. Sand paintings created as art generally contain important errors so that it is not an exact replica of a sacred ceremonial sand painting.


A solid, durable material made of acrylic plastic. Plexiglass can be molded into transparent, heat and shatter resistant sheets that resemble glass. Plexiglass is the preferred substitute for glass in aircrafts, watercrafts, military vehicles, etc.

Nagasi Wash, New Mexico

A dry river located in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin area of the Navajo Reservation in northwestern New Mexico. Although the exact location and the name of the wash could not be verified, it is safe to assume that the Nagasi Wash is located near the Nageezi trading post, north of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.


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