People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)


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.


A public statement, opinion, or observation intended or interpreted as an authoritative pronouncement.

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.


A tough cotton textile, typically dyed indigo blue. First made in France, where it was called "serge de Nîmes," which is where we get the name "denim," the fabric has been iconically used in the United States since the eighteenth century. First associated with the working class,especially miners during the various nineteenth-century goldrushes, denim has also attained cult status as a fashion statement in and of itself.


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.


The back, open portion of a pickup truck, used for transporting cargo.

Alice in Wonderland

A famous novel written by the British author Lewis Carroll and illustrated by John Tenniel, first published in 1865 under the title Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The story tells of a young girl who falls asleep while resting in a meadow, and dreams a fantastical adventure in which she travels to wonderous underground places and encounters many strange creatures on the way. The novel is characterized by its illogical unfoldings, its highly imaginative narration, its inventive language, and its hallucinatory atmosphere.


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.

corn beetle

Corn Beetle, also known as Anlt'áni in Navajo, appears in the sandpaintings of some Navajo ceremonials. Early researchers incorrectly translated the Navajo word anlt'áni, which means "ripener," into English as "cornbeetle." In Navajo mythology, ripener insects refer to pollinating insects, specifially lacewing flies and tree crickets, that play a role in ripening corn. Corn Beetle is therefore also associated with fertility and the ripening of corn.

Corn Beetle Girl is often characterized as the female companion to Corn Pollen Boy, both of whom are personifications of the corn pollen required for most Navajo ceremonials, including the Blessingway. Because the Navajo believe the Holy People are present in all the things around them, Corn Beetle Girl is believed to be found in a variety of "ripener" insects.


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