The sun is out, but the air is cold, very cold. The Hillerman Project team of graduate fellows is back to work after a long and satisfying winter break. The Sandia Mountains, visible from just about every corner in Albuquerque, have strings, ropes, and knots of white draped all over them. The temperatures at night drop well below freezing point, and a persistent layer of frost sticks to the windshield in the morning.
Autumn at the Tony Hillerman Portal hub was a vibrant season full of important and exciting events. The term opened with a new initiative for community outreach intended to boost our curriculum development venture. Our recently-hired fellow, Geneva Becenti, has launched a series of discussions with several school districts in New Mexico, with the intention to create collaborative lesson plans that will incorporate the eHillerman online portal as an educational tool for all grade levels.
Who is Jim Chee? A cop. A Navajo. A scholar. A healer. Unlike Joe Leaphorn, the confident lieutenant who is rational, calculated, and skeptical of traditional Navajo beliefs and spiritual practices, Chee embraces the Navajo way of life and cherishes the sacred knowledge passed on to him by his ancestors. He is more intuitive than Leaphorn, and solves crimes not by relying solely on logical analysis, but on his senses and instincts.
By Stephanie Mack and Sophie Ell
In Hillerman’s 1980 novel PEOPLE OF DARKNESS, Jim Chee pursues a lead that takes him to Crownpoint Elementary School, the location of the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction. Leaving the parking area, which is full of older Plymouths and Fords, to enter the school’s auditorium, Chee is confronted by the familiar smells “of cooking fry bread, floor wax, blackboard chalk, stewing mutton and red chile, of raw wool, of horses, and of humans.”