A.A. Kaul Office Supply Company the business that has a storage facility upstairs from Tosamah's chapel.
Abelito "little Abel," an intimate nickname.
Abelito diminutive form of "Abel" in Spanish, showing closeness, affection.
advents and passiontides Preparation during the four weeks before Christmas (Advent) and the two weeks before Easter (passiontide) involves penance and discipline of fasting and prayer.
Aesop the legendary African teller of fables in ancient Greece.
Alesia a city in Gaul defended by Vercingetorix and conquered after a long siege by Caesar.
Algonquin Algonkian refers to a family of languages spoken by Cree, Ojibwa, and other peoples with homelands in the northeast woodlands. Bowker's use of this term shows his ignorance, as neither Abel nor any other character in the book is a speaker of any Algonkian language.
Angelus a prayer to the Virgin recited at morning, noon, and dusk, signaled by the ringing of bells.
Apaches Like the Navajos, the Apaches speak a language belonging to the Athabascan linguistic family.
Arabian an Arabian horse.
arroyo a dry wash, or creek bed.
Arroyo Bajo An arroyo is a dry wash or gully; Arroyo Bajo is a place name specific to Walatowa.
Bahkyula a village to the east, near the plains, from which the inhabitants fled and eventually settled in Jemez.
Bahkyush a person from the Tanoan village of Bahkyula.
Bear Maiden the heroine of an important Navajo myth.
Beautyway and Night Chant two of the great Navajo ceremonials.
"Beautyway" the English name for one of the major Navajo ceremonials; these are extremely elaborate curing rituals involving hundreds of songs and prayers, body painting, sand painting, dancing, making sacred objects, and relating important stories. Their purpose is to cure disease-mental, moral, spiritual, or physical.
Belted Mountain a shortened form of Black-Belted Mountain; it has been identified by some scholars as one of the four sacred mountains that anchor the four corners of the Navajo world.
Benevides The house where Angela St. John is staying seems to be named for Fray Benevides, a Spanish friar and explorer who wrote about his encounters with the people of the Rio Grande Valley in the 1600s.
Bienvenido a la tierra del encanto Welcome to the land of enchantment. "Land of Enchantment" is the motto of the state of New Mexico, and the phrase appears on road signs at the state's borders.
Big Dipper a constellation of seven stars, used in navigating to sight the North Star.
Bighorn River a river on the northern plains in the Montana/Wyoming area.
Black Hills a region of South Dakota sacred to the Lakota/Dakota peoples.
Blackfeet a nation of the northern plains, Canada, and Montana.
Blessed Infant of Prague Its origin shrouded in legend, it is a small wax statue of the infant Jesus, carried to Prague in the sixteenth century by a Spanish princess at her marriage. The original statue (as well as copies of it) can be dressed and undressed and has a rich wardrobe including jeweled crowns; it is venerated by many Catholics worldwide.
box canyon a canyon with no outlet.
"Bright Path," "Path of Pollen" phrases that recur in many Navajo songs, signifying a proper, correct, enriching mode of behavior, the way for humans to move appropriately from youth to old age.
Bull Durham a brand of tobacco sold in plugs for chewing or flakes for making hand-rolled cigarettes.
Bunker Hill Avenue a steep hill in downtown Los Angeles. At the time of the novel, a funicular called Angel's Flight ran from the top of the hill to the street below.
cacique The Spanish word translates as "chief"; it can mean boss, or as here, the head of a clan, or priestly society.
Calendar Stone In meso-American cultures, the so-called calendar stones are huge stone disks carved with emblems of the sacred animals and plants, indicating seasonal and recurrent events and allusions to mythical personages.
Campo Santo "Sacred Ground," in Spanish; a cemetery.
cassock a long black or red one-piece garment worn by priests and assistants at Mass, usually under a white pinafore, called a surplice.
cassock the black or red full-length smock worn by priests and acolytes under ceremonial vestments or as ordinary dress.
censer a gold or precious metal container for burning incense; swung on a chain.
centaur a creature of Greek mythology that has the head and torso of a man and the four legs and hind quarters of a horse.
Chambers a place on the Navajo reservation.
chasuble the outermost vestment, often ornately decorated, worn by the priest saying Mass.
chert a kind of quartz.
Circumcision On January 1, the Catholic church commemorates the circumcision of Jesus according to Jewish custom.
clansmen Clan identity is of first importance to Navajos; naming and introductions always involve reciting maternal and paternal clans.
Comanches a southern Plains tribe in the Texas area; like the Kiowas and other Plains peoples, they maintained a nomadic way of life dependent mainly on buffalo.
concho a round disk hammered out of silver (silver dollars used to be used) and strung on a belt, bridle, or other article.
conchos round, ornate silver disks usually fastened onto a leather strap for a belt.
Cor. I I Corinthians, one of the epistles of Saint Paul.
the corn dance at Cochiti Cochiti is another of the pueblos along the Rio Grande in New Mexico. One of the festivals marking the sacred agricultural cycle is a ceremony to ensure continuance of the corn crop.
corn-blossom necklace also called squash-blossom; a necklace of many small beads shaped to represent blossoms, with a large central pendant.
Cornfields a place on the Navajo reservation.
corpus delicti literally, in Latin, "the body of the crime."
the crows and the buffalo and the singers came out The passage refers to the dancers of the crow and buffalo religious societies as they emerge in their ceremonial regalia.
Crows another northern nation, allied with the U.S. against the Lakota and Cheyenne during the Indian wars.
Cuba a small town near Jemez.
Cuba and Bloomfield road Cuba and Bloomfield are small New Mexico towns.
culebra the Spanish word for snake.
dervishes devotees of certain Muslem religious societies, some associated with ecstatic practices such as whirling, howling, and the like.
Devil's Tower a monumental rock formation in Wyoming, upthrust through the flat prairie and flat on top; a sacred place to the Kiowas and site of one of their most important legends.
Dîné Navajo word for "the people"; Navajos call themselves Dîné, not Navajo.
Domingos people from the pueblo of Santo Domingo.
Don De Lay O a punning reference to the woodcarver who did not finish the statue of the infant Jesus on time.
druidic pertaining to the druids, followers of a prehistoric nature worship in England and Ireland.
Dypaloh the opening formula for storytelling in Jemez (the phrase "Once upon a time" is such a formula in English). When the audience hears this word, they know that what follows will be a story.
Dzil quigi a mountain in the Navajo homeland.
Eagle Watchers Society one of the clan, or priest societies, of Jemez pueblo; it is special because it comprises descendants of the Bahkyula refugees.
Epiphany a feast celebrated on January 6, commemorating the revelation of the infant Jesus to the three Magi, or Wise Men; it is also called Little Christmas.
Esdzáshash nadle "The Woman Who Became a Bear" — that is, Changing Bear Maiden, the central figure of the myth of the Mountain Chant.
fabulous exotic and strange, but also pertaining to a fable — that is, a story with a strong plot and clear moral message.
a feast of martyrs a day dedicated to a saint who was martyred. The priest wears red vestments to celebrate the Mass in honor of a martyr. However, July 21 is apparently not a martyr's feast, but the feast of a virgin, which would ordinarily require white vestments.
feast of Santiago Feast of Saint James ("Iago" is another form of "Diego," the Spanish equivalent of "James"). Saint James is the patron or guardian saint of Jemez pueblo, and the day dedicated to him, July 25, is celebrated with a big fiesta combining secular merrymaking with religious observances derived from both Catholic and indigenous traditions.
fetish an object with spiritual or magic power.
firewater slang for hard liquor.
flexible goods one of the organizing categories in Navajo thought and language. Flexible, or "soft," goods can include items like leather or fabric, while hard goods can be turquoise or obsidian; however, assignment to a category does not necessarily depend on physical properties of hardness or softness.
Fort Sill one of many forts in the West erected during the campaigns against the Indians.
Fray Spanish for "friar," a member of a mendicant, or begging, religious order.
fried bread leavened bread that is fried in lard; it is characteristic of Navajo cuisine.
frío cold (Spanish).
Genesis the first book of the Bible; it contains the Hebrew story of the creation of the world.
Genesis the first book of the Hebrew scriptures, source of the creation story.
German silver an alloy of zinc, nickel, and copper.
Goodnight a ranch in Texas with a herd of buffalo.
"greasers" a racist word for Mexicans.
Great Spirit an expression non-Indians have used to allude to Native peoples' object of worship.
His Excellency's Conquistadora The reference is obscure. His Excellency could be the territorial governor (the diary is being written when New Mexico was a territory) or an earlier colonial governor. The Conquistadora probably refers to a statue of the Virgin. The "reconquest" of New Mexico by the Spanish after the Pueblo revolt of 1680 is celebrated annually with religious processions carrying statues of the Virgin and saints.
hogan the traditional Navajo home — a large, many-sided log building with a domed roof.
Host the consecrated wafer.
Hummingbird a character in traditional mythology — especially in Mexico and the Southwest. Hummingbird plays a crucial role as messenger and adviser in a Pueblo myth relating the journey of the hero to retrieve rain clouds from a witch who has sequestered them. Hummingbird also figures in Southwest creation stories as a guide up through the underground worlds into the present world.
igneous rock that has been molten.
"In principio erat Verbum" "In the beginning was the Word" (Latin).
Indian Center Most big cities have Indian Centers, which are meant to serve the needs of people relocated to urban areas from the reservation.
Jerusalem the sacred city of the Hebrews.
Jesus scheme Tosamah's sarcastic reference to Christianity.
kaolin a fine white clay used in porcelain making, for medicine, and as a body paint.
Kayenta, Lukachukai towns on the Navajo reservation.
kethá ahme I'm a little bit of something (Jemez).
ketoh a type of tobacco smoke.
Kin tqel a place in the Navajo homeland.
Kiowa a people who migrated from the Yellowstone area to the southern Plains; noted for their horsemanship and bravery in war.
kiva the sacred place of esoteric ceremony and worship of the Pueblo peoples. Remains of prehistoric kivas in sites like Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon show that they have traditionally been subterranean round chambers.
Klagetoh a place on the Navajo reservation.
Lazarus The story of Lazarus and Dives is found in the New Testament; Lazarus, a beggar, is welcomed in heaven while the selfish rich man, Dives, is kept away.
ledger book a book ruled and lined to keep accounts. A number of Plains Indians of the nineteenth century used ledger books in which to record in pictures the history of important events in their tribe; for instance, there is a ledger book account of the battle at the Little Big Horn.
Levites in Hebrew tradition, members of the tribe of Levi; the priests responsible for worship.
Little Holy Wind Wind is one of the most important of the sacred elements in the Navajo world — it is the sacred breath of life.
Los Ojos literally, in Spanish, "the eyes"; a place near Walatowa.
María bear-HEE-nay et OMO FATUOUS A mispronunciation of the Latin "María Virgine et homo factus," which translates as "[Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the] Virgin Mary and made man." Fray Nicolás is characterized as punning in English, although presumably his diary is written in Spanish.
María de los Angeles . . . Porcingula Our Lady of the Angels, from Porcingula. A Franciscan church near the town of Assisi, in Italy, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary with this title. The name was also given by Franciscan missionaries to the settlement in southern California now known as Los Angeles (the full name of the city is Ciudad de Santa Maria Reina de los Angeles de Porcingula). The Bahkyush have a statue of the Virgin apparently acquired through contact with Franciscan missionaries.
Mass the central ceremony of the Catholic religion.
Mass the main worship ceremony of the Catholic religion, in which bread and wine are believed to be transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
mesa a flat steep-sided hill.
mesquite a hardwood tree native to the Southwestern desert; mesquite beans have long been an important source of food for indigenous people.
metate a mortar for grinding corn, seeds, chili peppers, and the like.
Middle the central ceremonial plaza of the village. The word also suggests the center of the world, as the Middle represents the place where, in the Native creation story, the first people, the Vigas, emerged from their journey up through the underground worlds.
the Middle the central plaza of the village.
Moors Muslims from Morocco, rulers of Spain from the early Middle Ages until 1492.
Moses the great lawmaker and visionary leader of the Hebrew people.
Mountain Chant Like Beautyway and the Night Chant, it is one of the major ceremonials of Navajo religion.
mule doe female mule deer.
mules ladies' backless lounging slippers.
najahe the central pendant of a squash-blossom necklace, a design apparently based on the pomegranate.
Nambe a pueblo in northern New Mexico.
Nativity a religious name for Christmas, the feast of the birth or nativity of Jesus.
Navajo The Navajo reservation is close to Jemez to the north and west of it.
Ándale hombre! Hurry up, man! (Spanish).
Ándale, muchacho! Hurry up, boy! (Spanish).
oracle In Greek tradition, this person is a medium who carries messages from the gods; it can also be the message that is carried.
Orient Asia, the East.
origin myth a creation story; it can tell about the creation of the world or the origin of a clan or ceremony.
oven bread bread baked in the characteristic beehive-shaped pueblo ovens that were introduced by the Spaniards; it is made from wheat and yeast. It is different from traditional cornbread that is baked on hot stones.
Padre Spanish for father; a title for a priest.
Painted Desert an area north and east of Flagstaff, on the Navajo reservation; it is celebrated for its panoramas of multicolored rock and sand.
Palo Duro Canyon a deep, rugged canyon in northern Texas, called the Grand Canyon of Texas.
parish the area and population which a given church serves.
paste sweetened bread.
paten a small metal saucer that holds the wafer to be consecrated at Mass.
patrones patrons, hosts (Spanish).
Pecos a river in Texas to the south and east of Jemez. The Bahkyush people bring with them bull and horse masks acquired during their contact with Spanish missionaries; the masks will figure in the ceremony of Saint James (Santiago).
peneplain land worn down by erosion.
peon peasant; fieldworker.
Pharisees in Hebrew tradition, members of a strictly observant group that followed written religious laws but also observed rules handed down through oral tradition.
Philip, Andrew, Peter apostles, followers of Jesus.
piki a corn bread made from fine thin batter baked on heated rocks into large, paper-thin rounds.
piñones pine trees and the edible nuts harvested from them.
posole hominy stew.
prayer plume an offering to the spirit(s) of a certain place, made by tying feathers to a specially painted and/or carved stick, reed, or other support. The making of prayer plumes is prescribed ritual, from the type of knots used to the words said when putting the offering together.
Priest of the Sun a designation for Tosamah.
Pueblo people The Pueblo people are those Indians of the Rio Grande valley and other Southwestern sites who have traditionally lived in permanent villages of multi-story, multi-family condominium-type buildings constructed of adobe bricks, stone, and wood.
pueblo the Spanish word for "settlement," or "town." People lived in these city-states of the Southwest for hundreds of years, in contrast to more nomadic peoples like the Navajos, Apaches, and Utes. Called "Pueblo" Indians by the Spanish settlers, they are considered as a defined cultural group today.
Qtsedaba This closing formula signals the end of a story (Jemez).
que blanco . . . diablo blanco how white . . . white devil (Spanish).
queue a single braid of hair.
Rainy Mountain a center of Kiowa life and land in Oklahoma; the site of Momaday's (in the novel, Tosamah's) grandmother's house.
Rainy Mountain Creek a stream running below Rainy Mountain.
rectory a priest's house; it belongs to the church.
rectory the house of a priest or minister.
Relocation officer a federal employee working for the Indian Relocation program. The officer was supposed to help Indians coming from the reservation to get job training, housing, and job placement.
Rio Mancos a river in the Four Corners area.
sacrament of communion bread and wine said to be transformed into Christ's body and blood in the Mass.
sacramental violence Sacraments are sacred rituals of the Catholic religion. Sacramental violence would be a sacred, holy violence.
sacristan the man who takes care of the church sacristy, keeps it neat, locks and unlocks the church, and so on.
sacristy the room off the sanctuary of a church where the priest puts on his robes and where things like hymn books, wine, and sacred vessels are stored.
said his office the daily prayer prescribed for priests; the office changes each day in observance of the saint's feast and seasonal ceremonies.
San Ysidro a village in New Mexico, named for Saint Isidore, patron of farmers.
Santa Fe Indian School one of the federal boarding schools set up for Indian children.
Santa Monica a beach city a few miles west of Los Angeles.
Sawish witch (Jemez).
scarlet pods dried red chili peppers hanging from the beams of the adobe houses.
se dío por . . . much, mucho frío It's very, very cold (Spanish).
Se dió por vencido He gave up (Spanish).
Serpent According to Fray Nicolás, this is Satan, or the devil. Some kiva ceremonies, however, honor the plumed serpent that is associated with underground water sources and is believed to be a bringer of rain.
Seytokwa an older settlement of the Jemez people, now uninhabited.
Sí, bien hecho Yes, it's well made (Spanish).
Sia one of the Pueblo nations near Jemez.
Sia, Isleta two other New Mexico pueblos, near Jemez.
The Silver Dollar a fictional bar in Los Angeles.
Sinister Angel a messenger or bringer of death.
Sioux a family of languages spoken by the Dakota, Winnebago, and other Plains nations.
Smoky Hill; Canadian; Arkansas; Cimarron rivers flowing through Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and adjacent areas.
sotobalau yeast bread.
soutane the black robe worn as an everyday uniform by Catholic priests at the time; it is often called a cassock.
spawns the silverfish are releasing their mass of eggs.
squash blossoms The reference is to a necklace design consisting of a string of small, silver blossom-shaped beads on either side of a large central pendant.
squash clan one of the priestly societies charged with conducting ceremonials.
squaws, bucks pejorative and insulting terms, used to describe those degraded by drink.
Staked Plains an area south and west of Amarillo, Texas.
stomp dance, squaw dance social dances in which men and women participate.
Sun Dance When the Forked Poles Were Left Standing The sun dance was the central act of worship of the Kiowas — held once a year, when possible. The designation of this sun dance commemorates the fact that it was incomplete; the phrase would have explained an entry in the Kiowa calendar, a pictographic record of the tribe's history.
swaddle a large diaper-like wrapping wound around an infant.
Tai-me the sun dance image, called by Tosamah the sacred fetish of the Kiowa people.
tamarack a North American larch, of the pine family; the name is thought to be of Algonquian origin.
Tanoan one of the language groups of the Southwest.
Tanoan one of the Pueblo language groups; other groups are Keres, Tewa, and Towa.
tarda mucho en venir a long time coming (Spanish).
Termination a program initiated by the federal government in the 1950s designed eventually to eliminate (terminate) all Indian reservations and assimilate all Indians into the mainstream culture.
Thy Mother Fray Nicolás refers to the statue of the Virgin Mary, which was completed by the woodcarver.
Thy Patrons Little One Fray Nicolás is addressing the Infant, urging him to remember those devoted to him.
Tío the word means "uncle" in Spanish; evidently Fray Nicolás' horse is named Tío.
tornadic tornado winds.
Torreon a city in Mexico.
train a knight's retinue of squires, servants, and so on.
Tsegihi Dawn's House, or the House of Dawn. It has been identified as an abandoned cliff dwelling along the northern Rio Grande.
Turquoise Woman one of the First People who took part in the creation and early shaping of the Navajo world. Her counterpart is White Shell Woman.
Valle Grande Great Valley.
Valle Grande Great Valley.
Vallecitos literally, small valleys. Here, it is the name for a small lumber camp near Jemez.
Vallecitos little valleys (Spanish); a place name in New Mexico.
War Captain a title belonging to the head of one of the traditional religious societies.
Washita a river winding through Kansas and Oklahoma.
What's-His-Name v. United States a fictitious court case title Tosamah uses for an example of the inability of law to deal with Abel's reasoning.
white-skinned an albino. There is a relatively high incidence of albinism at Jemez pueblo.
Wichita a range of hills in southern Oklahoma/northern Texas.
Wide Ruins a place on the Navajo reservation.
Williams and Flagstaff towns in northern Arizona, on Abel's route home to New Mexico.
y el hombre negro . . . muchos hombres negros . . . corriendo, corriendo . . . rápidamente and the black man . . . many black men . . . running, running . . . fast (Spanish).
Yeí bichai Holy People; semi-divine beings who are figures in myth and song; they are depicted in sand paintings and portrayed in some ceremonials by dancers in costume and paint.
yempah! What are you doing? (Jemez).
Yo heyana oh . . . chorus vocables from a traditional song.