One of my designated duties as a digital initiatives fellow involves the researching and writing authentic definitions for Tony Hillerman's children's story The Boy Who Made Dragonfly. The setting is the ancient village of Ha'wi-k'uh where the Zuni or A'shiwi people still live today. Adopted from ethnologist Frank Cushing's retelling of this A'shiwi tale, its cautionary tone warns against wanton wastefulness and stresses the importance of caring for one's neighbors.
by Sophie Ell
Quite a few challenges accompany the process of writing encyclopedic entries for the eHillerman portal. We encounter fictitious locations, Navajo terminology that is difficult to translate, and various Native American traditions and beliefs that we do our best to research and describe, although as cultural outsiders, ultimately they are impossible for us to fully grasp. On a more technical level, we must at times compress large amounts of substantial information into manageable reflections fit for our expanding encyclopedia.
As a Master’s candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, working with Hillerman’s manuscript of The Ghostway sparked insights and vital connections with my own research in critical indigenous studies. A close reading that emphasizes historical events as they relate to contemporary struggles within Native American communities may enhance our understanding of the real and metaphorical ghosts that haunt our national consciousness.
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.