People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)


In Spanish, "gordo" means fat. As a nickname, it is used in a derogatory way to make fun of a heavy-set person.


A decorative drinking vessel such as a cup or glass that has a foot and a stem, often made out of silver. The origin of the word is in Middle English, and goblets are often found in Medieval European lore of knights and kings.

General Sheridan

Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888) was a cavalry general whose leadership was instrumental in defeating the Confederate army in the last phase of the American Civil War. After the war, he served as military commander of Louisiana and Texas and then was transferred to Missouri, where he employed his learned war tactics to crush Indian resistance in the Southern Plains. Using massive attacks on Indian encampments, Sheridan's campaigns were responsible for killing many native men, women, and children, forcing the remainders of the Plain Indian peoples into reservations. Sheridan's legacy was enhanced by his supposed declaration that "the only good Indians I ever saw were dead," and, although he denied this attribution, he is known to this day as the one responsible for coining the phrase "a good Indian is a dead Indian."

war name

In the Navajo tradition, a war name is a one of several secret names given to children at birth by their parents. The war name is used only in ceremonial situations and in times of danger. The war name is considered to be owned by its bearer and part of his actual being.


The two most common ceremonials in the Navajo religion are the Blessingway (Hózhójí) and the Enemyway (‘Anaaʼjí). While the Blessingway is often sung over individuals to ensure good luck and blessings, the Enemyway is sung in order to protect Navajos from harmful ghosts of slain warriors, or in more contemporary parlance, to protect Navajos from the deleterious effects of non-Native influences. This ceremonial can be used for returning military personnel to rid them of the harmful effects of evil spirits, or chindi, of the slain, as well as the associated harmful effects of modernity both on and off the reservation. Leland Wyman defined the Enemyway as a ritual used to “…exorcise the ghosts of aliens, [which] makes much of war, violence, and ugliness; in fact it belongs in a native category of ceremonials usually translated as Evilway” (1983).


Also known as wapity (meaning "white rump" in Shawnee), the elk is one of the largest species of the deer family. It is recognizable by its size, its light color, and the male's impressive antlers. It was once widespread throughout North America, but due to extensive hunting and loss of habitat is now is mostly confined to the Rocky Mountains and southern Canada. Elk were native to New Mexico, but by the late nineteenth century relentless hunting had eliminated the original populations. New Mexico and private individuals have collaborated since 1910 to reintroduce the North American elk into the area, and it is again abundant in northern New Mexico, and west across into northern Arizona following the Mogollon Rim, and can also be found in growing numbers in the southern parts of the state.


A nitroglycerin-based explosive material often used for construction, mining, and demolition. Dynamite was patented in 1867 by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, and ironically, the inceptor of the Nobel Peace Prize. The name “dynamite” comes from the Ancient Greek work for “power”, δύναμις (dýnamis). Dynamite is composed of earthy materials, such as sawdust, soaked in nitroglycerin, which when exposed to heat can cause a detonation. If left in storage for too long, nitroglycerin can seep from the sawdust into surrounding materials and make the dynamite unstable, thereby causing unexpected explosions. Today, dynamite is wrapped in plastic or a wax-coating to eliminate this risk.


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.


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.


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