People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)


A fine-grained sedimentary rock formed out of mud, clay, silt, and other small minerals. In large quantities, for example on a mountain side, shale has the appearance of thin stacked layers of rock. Shale is often used in ceramics, tiles, bricks, and pottery.

winter hogan

It is not uncommon for the Navajo to have a summer and winter dwelling. A hogan is a traditional Navajo home. Hogans are generally round (female) or, less commonly, cone shaped (male), with the door facing east. The earliest hogans were called forked-stick hogans and were made from wooden poles forked together at the top to form a conical structure that was then covered with mud; the construction is very specific and the directions for building a hogan have been passed down for generations, originating with the Holy People.

A winter hogan is generally located at lower elevation pasture land. This structure is made of wooden planks and can be covered in earth for better insulation. However, winter hogans can also be used during summertime.


A seat made of leather that is placed on the backs of horses, ponies, camels, and other four-legged creatures ridden by humans. Although it is possible to ride most of the animals mentioned without a saddle, saddles can be more comfortable than riding bareback. In addition, saddles are pieces of technical equipment that enable riders to stick their mounts while under extreme conditions, such as when an animal is galloping over uneven terrain, when roping an escaping varmint, when jumping, or when covering extremely long distances.

There are two kinds of saddles: the English saddle and the Western saddle that has a pommel.


Springs are areas on the landscape where groundwater is pushed by gravity or pressure to the surface through unconsolidated sediment or fractures in the bedrock. Springs often manifest as ponds or seeps of water on the surface.


Datura is a genus of flowering plants that is used as a narcotic in various cultural traditions throughout the Americas. Because of its hallucinatory properties, its effects are associated with divination or witchcraft. This genus is also often associated with the classic “witches weeds,” such as Deadly Nightshade and mandrake. It has a root that is poisonous, and so it used with caution.

In some Navajo curing ceremonials, the first time datura is taken for divination,or seeing into the future, it is supervised by a singer, or haatali. Divination is most often sought in order to restore people to their balanced state and only as a last resort after other means of restoring equilibrium have been attempted.


The geologic process in which the surface of the earth, including soil, bedrock, and rock fragments, is degraded by natural processes. There are multiple processes by which these earth materials can be eroded including eolian erosion (wind), fluvial (rivers and streams), marine (ocean waves), and glacial. These processes break down rocks in their primary locations and then transport them to secondary locations. Geologic formations such as canyons and mesas are formed by the erosion of bedrock by natural forces. Erosion in the Southwest, in addition to many regions around the planet, has been exacerbated by human impact, such as overuse of sensitive areas; extraction of natural resources, inlcuding water; and land management practices at a large scale.


Most cultures have some form of kinship system, and depending on the culture, who is included and how the system is set up can vary. In many contemporary Western traditions, kinship is determined by one's descent from and connection to the male lineage of an extended biological network. However, depending on the system, kinsmen can include women, men, spirits, or animals. Kinship can be important as it can define what members of society are viable sexual partners for reproduction. For instance, those who are considered your kin are excluded as acceptable matches. On the other hand, kinship can also define social connections, allegiances, and communal networks of reciprocity.

The Navajo are matrilineal, meaning a kinship system based on the mother’s family rather than the fathers, this means that when married all property is owned by women and the men move into the wife’s household. Additionally, the Navajo kinship system is based on clans, and when children are born they have two clans, their mother’s and their father’s. Their mother’s clan is the dominant clan, “born to” and their father’s clan is “born for”. It is considered incest for any Navajo to engage in relations with someone who is part of their mother, father, or grandparent’s clans. The children will have stronger ties to their mother’s clan.


Natural and pharmaceutically-derived substances used to relieve pain that can cause stupor, sleep, euphoria, and addiction. The most common form of narcotics are opiates, such as opium, morphine, and heroin. Morphine was isolated from opium in 1804 by German pharmacist F.W.A. Sertürner, and heroin was developed from morphine in 1898 by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer.

All narcotics were initially developed and prescribed to manage pain. However, due to their highly addictive nature, narcotic abuse led to strict regulation and enforcement of the use of these and other substances. In the 1970s, the U.S. federal government engaged in the War on Drugs, which led to high rates of incarceration for populations who came to be associated with the criminal use of controlled substances, such as narcotics. Targeted populations included counterculture movements, the inner city poor, and the working poor, especially black and Latino communities.


There are over 200 species of owl, a mostly nocturnal bird of prey found on almost every continent. Owls eat small rodents, insects, and other birds. Their acute powers of vision, strong sense of hearing, and silent flight all contribute to their reputations as formidable hunters.

Some cultures traditionally avoid owls, as they are believed to foretell the passing of a loved one. Additionally, as in the case of the Navajo, owls are believed to be inhabited by the ghosts of the dead, thereby causing ghost sickness in those they encounter.


A Navajo term which means “those who wander around,” in reference to Spaniards who conducted expeditions into the Southwest and Great Plains during the 1500s, beginning with Coronado's search for the Seven Cities of Cibola. The earliest recorded contact between the Spaniards and Navajo occurred in 1583 near Mount Taylor in New Mexico. This term is used colloquially by some Navajo to denote someone who is ethnically Hispanic or Mexican.


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