Cultural Reference

peyote moon

A peyote gathering of the Native American Church has a crescent-shaped moon drawn on the ground in sand that functions as the altar for the ceremony. This half-circle, which is located at one end of the service space (a hogan in the case of the Navajo), usually facing the door, symbolizes the "peyote road" of brotherhood, harmony, and healing. Within it, ritual tools and the sacramental peyote buttons are arranged according to the ceremonial tradition.

peyote ceremony

A sacred service in the tradition of the Native American Church, in which healing, spiritual cleansing, and vision quests are conducted through praying, chanting, and drumming, facilitated by the ingestion of peyote. Peyote is a hallucinogenic cactus that induces an altered state of consciousness believed to enhance connection with the spiritual realms. The peyote ceremony, which is also known as Peyote Way, usually lasts at least one night and can be performed regularly (once a moth, for example), or according to need, in cases when an individual suffers from acute illness or when the community faces an urgent challenge.


Ritual and spiritual warrior kachina figures who play an important role in the Zuni winter solstice ceremonial of Shalako. There is one Salamobia for each of the six Zuni kivas, but only two of the warrior figures are selected to accompany the Council of the Gods during Shalako: one who represents the Zenith, or Above, and another who represents the Nadir, or Below. Wielding yucca whips or wands, the Salamobia maintain order, both literally and figuratively, during the ceremony. Although the mask and body of each Salamobia is painted distinctively to represent its specific kiva, the general costume among all six remains the same: a crow feather ruff, a short kilt, and a yucca wand.

Deputy to the Sun

This is one of the titles for the role a young Zuni man performs when participating in the Shalako ceremony, which takes place around the winter solstice. The winter Shalako marks several days of concentrated spiritual observance and ritual practice meant to invite protective spirits into the community, so that sustenance and fertility are ensured. The main ceremony lasts a full night, and involves trained dancers wearing masks and personating the kachina spirits. The Deputy to the Sun, also known as the Little Fire God, is one of these dancers, and his duty is to follow the path laid out by the Sun Father deity, praying for rain, health, and prosperity for the people. The Deputy to the Sun is usually a young novice being initiated into the sacred rituals of the Zuni. Preparations for serving his duty include purifying the body, the heart, and the mind of interfering influences by observing celibacy and refraining from negative thoughts and emotions such as anger and aggression.

one-track mind

An expression referring to a way of thinking that is very focused, or even obsessed with, one thing in particular. The term one-track probably has its origin in the image of a train moving on a straight track in one direction. Like that train, the one-track mind will be directing all its energy toward a specific subject or purpose without considering other options.


A tracker is an individual who is skilled in following prints and traces left on the ground by animals or a humans. In many Native American and other indigenous cultures, tracking is learned by hunters, gatherers, or warriors starting at a very early age. Trackers learn to identify animal paw and hoof prints, scat, fur, and feathers, as well as traces of movement on the path. Similarly, they may also be skilled in reading human traces such as footprints, tracks left by tools or vehicles, and signs of stopping, turning, and shifting weight. In Hillerman's novels, Jim Chee, a Navajo policeman, appears to possess exceptional tracking expertise that enables him to interpret clues left at crime scenes, follow suspects, and solve mysteries.

Native American trackers have been recruited by European settlers in the Americas since first contact. More recently, they have been employed by military and law enforcement agencies in operations that require their unique skills.

track team

A group of individuals affiliated with an institution, often a school, that competes in athletic events that involve running, jumping, and throwing. In addition to track events that are held on a designated field and on a paved track with lanes, there are separate teams and events that compete in cross-country track, in which the runners run on natural terrain.

track shoe

A light-weight sports shoe designed specifically for running. Track shoes have thin, flexible soles, and often feature tiny spikes that improve gripping and traction and therefore allow the runner to safely develop speed.

Shalako Messenger Birds

In Tony Hillerman's 1972 retelling of the Zuni myth THE BOY WHO MADE DRAGONFLY, he makes reference to the Shalako Messenger Birds. In the tradition of the Zuni people of the American Southwest, Shalako refers both an annual winter solstice ceremony, as well as to spirit deities perceived as giant, beaked messengers to the gods. Six Shalako messengers, one for each cosmic direction (the four cardinal directions as well as one for above and one for below), carry prayers from the Zuni people to the gods all year long. After the fall harvest, close to the winter solstice, as the year transitions from old to new, the Shalako ceremony takes place. It includes dances, prayers, remembrance of ancestors, and ritual blessings for health and fertility. Hillerman's mention of the Shalako Messenger Birds is most likely a reference to the Shalako messengers, personated by trained dancers, who are very tall kachina accompanying the personated Council of the Gods. These six dancers enter the pueblo at sunset, accompanied by their attendants, and tower over the attendees and participants, as their giant beaked masks make dancers rise to about nine feet tall.


The term hoodlum, often shortened to hood, refers to an individual assumed to be associated with crimes and violence. Especially when the term is shortened to "hood," there can also be an inference to organized crime and gangsterism.


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