People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Office, Gallup, New Mexico

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is part of the United States Department of the Interior established March 11, 1824. The mission of this bureau is to provide services to the 566 currently federally-recognized Native American tribes and Alaska Natives in the United States. The BIA also administers and manages over 55 million acres of land within the U.S. The BIA is one of two bureaus under the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, the other being the Bureau of Indian Education.

The Gallup, NM office is one of the five BIA agencies on the Navajo Nation Reservation. Officially called the Navajo Regional Office, this is the central agency and is responsible for supervising services for the entire reservation.

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma is both the name of a pueblo group who reside in western New Mexico and the name of the actual pueblo, also known as Sky City. Acoma Pueblo is situated on top of a high mesa top, and until a road was constructed in 1950’s from the valley floor to the top of the mesa, the only way to access the pueblo was by a steep foot path. The community of Acoma includes residential pueblo houses and ceremonial kivas. This pueblo is one of the oldest continually occupied settlements in North America.

Although the Pueblo culture is generally considered peaceful, Pueblo communities often found themselves the target of raids by their more mobile neighbors, including the Navajo, Apache, Comanche, and Ute. In addition, the Spanish first made contact with the pueblo around 1540, when Coronado was exploring the Southwest. However, it wasn’t until the second Spanish attempt to conquer this region in 1598 that tensions between Pueblo groups and the colonizers heightened. These tensions eventually led to a battle in the streets of Acoma against Vincente de Zaldivar, the nephew of the first governor of Nuevo Mexico, Don Juan de Onate. During the skirmish, Zaldivar fell to his death off the mesa. Three days later, Onateled a second attack and accomplished the massacre of between 800 to 1,000 Acoma. Onate then subjected the survivors to further penalties, including mutilation of males over the age of 25 and years of forced servitude for women and children. The historical trauma of this event is still very much alive today. In 1998, a group of Acoma cut off the heavy bronze foot of a statue dedicated to Onate in symbolic protest to the celebration of such atrocities.

hand trembler

In the Navajo tradition, before a singer, or medicine man (called a hataałii in Navajo), is requested to perform a healing ceremonial, a hand trembler, or ndilniihii, usually a woman, will diagnose the source of illness. Through prayer, concentration, and sprinkling of sacred pollen, her hand will tremble and pinpoint the source of an illness, which then determines the proper ceremonial cure.

A hand trembler is one of three different types of diagnosticians among the Navajo who may be consulted to diagnose the cause of an illness and recommend the proper ceremony to cure it. Star gazers and listeners are the other two types of diagnosticians. Any of these specialists may be consulted for advice about sickness, identifying witchcraft, dreams, lost items, or any unusual happenings.


Sheep are hoofed mammals, classified as ovis aries. They are usually domesticated and kept as livestock by various cultures throughout the world. Sheep are raised for their wool, which is used to weave textiles, and they are also kept on farms for their milk and meat.

Sheep are dearly cherished among the Navajo people of the American southwest. Sheep husbandry and herding has been an integral part of Navajo life for centuries, and according to Navajo belief, the reciprocal relationship between humans and their sheep symbolizes balance, unity, and living in harmony with the land. The Navajo-Churro sheep is of particular importance to the Navajo spiritually, agriculturally, and economically. The Churro’s wool is used to make intricately-designed blankets and rugs, and the sheep’s meet is a staple of the Navajo diet. This breed was on the brink of extinction after the American government conducted a livestock reduction as one of many colonization efforts to push the Navajo off their land and interrupt their way of life. The Navajo Sheep Project has since set out to breed and preserve the Navajo-Churro sheep so that man and animal can live in harmony once again.


Talus is the sloping pile of loose rock fragments that accumulate along the edge of a steep cliff or other landform.

Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2001.

Oxford, England: Isis Audio Books, 1993.


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