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.
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.