Natural Environment Reference


Spanish for spotted or painted with color, the pinto is a horse with a spotted coat of different colors. Pintos are most often associated with the Plains Indians of North America, because after the Spanish introduced horses to North America, they were adopted by indigenous groups who quickly mastered horsemanship and then the plains themselves. There are two types of pintos, overo and tobiano. Overo is a coloring where the white of the coat spreads from the underbelly to meet a darker color near the top of the horse. The tobiano coloring occurs when the white spreads from the top and to create clearly-formed spots.

piñon jay

A large blue-grey song bird similar to a crow, the piñon jay is found in the Western Great Basin of North American, including the U.S. Southwest, especially in foothills and lower mountain slopes where the Pinyon-Juniper forest type is found. These jays harvest piñon pine seeds, storing them against the winter months.


The substance in an object that reflects various elements of the light spectrum while absorbing others. The element of the spectrum that are reflected become the color, or pigment, visible to the human eye. In biology, a pigment is a genetic, natural substance that is responsible to giving color to plants and animals. Chlorophyll, for example, is a pigment that gives plants a variety of green colors, and melanin is a pigment that, to a varying degree, darkens human skin and animal fur.


Phosphorescence is a luminescence (or light) that occurs without the presence of combustion. Phosphorescence also occurs due to slow oxidation, or the release of oxygen, stimulated by the presence of light, which provokes a chemical reaction that produces light even after the original source of light has been removed.


A description generally used for tapered cylindrical objects that are thought to resemble a penis in shape.


Peyote is a small, spineless cactus found in Mexico and Texas. When ingested, the plant has psychedelic qualities and causes hallucination, trances, and visions for its users. Peyote has been used by indigenous groups in the Americas for ceremonial purposes for thousands of years.

Peyote became the main sacrament of the Native American Church, formed in 1918 as a Pan-Indian organization. After the relocation and abuses of the US government, the church, a synthesis of traditional and Christian observances, found a captive audience. The Native American Church celebrates the use of peyote, classified as a controlled substance by the U.S. government, and its effects as a religious experience protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Petroleum occurs naturally near the earth's surface in liquid, gas, and solid forms. The word petroleum in Greek literally means rock oil. Petroluem is a naturally-occurring energy sources known as a fossil fuel, meaning it derives from previously living carbon-based organic lifeforms that have been transformed, via a variety of chemical processes over time, into carbon-based inorganic substances from which humans have learned to extract stored energy.

petrified wood

Fossilized wood that is often banded in color, for which it is highly valued.Because of the fossilization process, which replaces organize materials with minerals, petrified wood is essentially wood that has been turned into stone and can therefore be used to create stone artifacts, including bowls, knives, and beads. One of the richest deposits of petrified wood in North America is the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona, near the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni reservations.


The mole is a small burrowing rodent, an industrious and persistent tunneler that is sensitive to light, sound, and vibration.

Among the pueblo cultures of the American Southwest, moles are considered an important medicine animal, representing the downward direction, the color black, earth and agriculture, and also sickness and health. The Zuni carve stone mole fetishes for protection, ascribing to them both healing and hunting powers. The mole also symbolizes an awareness of externalities as well as an awareness of self derived from deep introspection. In the mole, these various perceptions come together to form a being who is sensitive, grounded, and inquisitive. The mole also symbolizes intuitiveness, as his hyperawareness and ability to think deeply unite to help him see beyond the obvious. In this sense, the mole is also always searching, exploring beneath the surface.


While the most common use of this word is to refer to the Western Plateau and northern plains of Australia, the actual definition references any remote region of back country wilderness. In the American Southwest, there are many regions and areas that could be considered “outback” due to their ruggedness, difficulty of access, and lack of human-built "improvements," including roads.


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