The word Anasazi is Navajo for ‘Ancient Ones’ or ‘Ancient Enemy’ and is used to describe the Ancient or Ancestral Pueblo peoples who once inhabited the Four Corners of the southwestern United States (southern Utah, northern Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and southern Colorado).
The Anasazi culture emerged perhaps as early as 1500 BC, apparently disappearing around 1300 AD. The only trace of the people remains in architecture (particulary their distinctive cliff dwellings), basketry, art, and other implements. Historians remain divided over what caused the so-called 'Anasazi collapse' or what happened to the people. Most modern Pueblo people (such as the Kerseans, Hopi, and Tanoans) assert the ancient Pueblo migrated to the southwest to find more favourable rainfall and dependable streams. They then merged into the various Pueblo peoples whose descendents still live in Arizona and New Mexico.
Mescal, the heart or piña of the agave plant (see bookmark p.155 'they rode through strange forests of maguey'), was cultivated and treasured as a valuable source of food, fibre and medicine for many Indian tribes of the Southwest, including the Havasupais, Hopis, Yavapais, Maricopas, Papagos, Walapais, Kaibabs, and the White Mountain, Chiricahua, and Mescalero Apaches.
Although toxic when raw, burning the mouth, mescal (the heart of the agave) was edible when roasted. The Indians dug huge roasting pits in the fields, ten to twelve feet in diameter, three to four feet deep, lined with large flat rocks; a mound of oak or juniper wood was placed in the bottom and the fire ignited before dawn. By noon, it had died down and moist grass was laid on the stones. Between one and three dozen agave crowns were roasted together, each surrounded by a mound of rocks to hold moisture in the ground. The pit was covered with bear grass, a tall western plant used to make baskets, and then a thick layer of earth and allowed to roast for two days. After the crowns cooled, the center portion or heart was eaten or dried in the sun. As agave was harvested before the plant produced its flower, it contained a large store of carbohydrates that converted to a sugary, highly nutritious food. Each heart furnished about 347 calories, 4.5 grams of protein per 100 grams weight and more calcium than a glass of milk.
(Linda Murray Berzok, American Indian Food)
The maguey, aloe or century plant are common names for the agave, a huge artichoke-like plant found in arid areas of Arizona, New Mexico, southeastern California, southern Utah, and northern Mexico, at elevations of 3,000 to 8,000 feet. The plant, which flowers once, then dies, can live for around thirty or forty years before flowering, hence the name ‘century plant’.
Yucca is a genus of shrub and tree in the family Asparagaceae, native to arid parts of North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. There are around 50-60 species of Yucca, recognisable by their evergreen, sword-shaped leaves and large white flowers.
The plant is known colloquially in the American Midwest as ‘Ghosts in the graveyard’, as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards, appearing as a floating apparition when the flowers are in bloom.
Gileño (also Apaches de Gila, Apaches de Xila, Apaches de la Sierra de Gila, Xileños, Gilenas, Gilans, Gilanians, Gila Apache, Gilleños) was the name used to refer to several different Apachean and non-Apachean groups at different times. Gila refers to either the Gila River or the Gila Mountains.
Some of the Gila Apaches were probably later known as the Mogollon Apaches, a subdivision of the Chiricahua, while others probably evolved into the Chiricahua proper. However, since the term was used indiscriminately for all Apachean groups west of the Rio Grande (i.e. in southeast Arizona and western New Mexico), the reference is often unclear. After 1722, Spanish documents start to distinguish between these different groups; Apaches de Gila comes to mean Western Apaches living along the Gila River (and thus synonymous with Coyotero).
American writers first used the term to refer to the Mimbres (another subdivision of the Chiricahua). Later the term was confusingly used to refer to Coyoteros, Mogollones, Tontos, Mimbreños, Pinaleños, Chiricahuas, as well as the non-Apachean Yavapai (then also known as Garroteros or Yabipais Gileños). Another Spanish usage (along with Pimas Gileños and Pimas Cileños) referred to the non-Apachean Pima living on the Gila River.
A gibbous moon is lunar phase during which more than half, but less than all, of the visible hemisphere of the Moon is illuminated by sunlight. The gibbous moon occurs between a full moon and a half moon, or between a half moon and a full moon, as the moon is waxing or waning.
The Río Bravo del Norte, or simply Río Bravo, is the Mexican name for the Rio Grande, the 1,896 mile (3,051 km) long river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. A stretch of the river serves as the boundary between the U.S. state of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.
The dawn or morning star is the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise.
Originally it was called Lucifer (from the Latin lucem ferre, meaning 'light-bearer') since the dawn appearance of Venus heralds daylight. The name Lucifer has since become exclusively associated with Satan, as the name he bore before being cast from heaven.
Travellers passing through remote areas of the Old West ran the risk of falling victim to the many road agents (an American term for a highwayman) who made their living through robbery and murder. It was not uncommon for road agents to disguise their work in such a way that their victims would appear to have been killed by Indians.
Berserkers were ferocious Norse warriors who fought in a nearly uncontrollable trance-like fury.
A number of theories have been offered as to what caused berserker behaviour. Some historians believe the warriors worked themselves into a rage through some psychological process, while others claim drugged foods, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, may have been ingested. Others suggest the beserkers may have suffered from some form of mental illness or handicap.
The Judge, in less than politically-correct terms, has just described the racial type of mestizo, a term traditionally used in Latin America for people of mixed European and indiginous American heritage.
During the Spanish colonial period, mestizos held less status and rights than the ‘Peninsular’ (those born in Europe) or ‘Criollos’ (those born in the New World of two European parents), but quickly became the dominant group after the colonies started achieving independence from Spain. In time the concept of the mestizo would become central to Mexico’s formation of a new independent identity that was neither wholly Spanish nor wholly indigenous.
A changeling is a creature found in European folklore and folk religion. It is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other mythical creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to the child who was taken.
Médanos are continental dunes, as opposed to dunas which are dunes of coastal origin. The term is mainly associated with South America. They may be vegetated or unvegetated, and are notoriously difficult to traverse.
The Swiss naturalist and explorer Johann Jakob von Tschudi provides this 1847 description of Peruvian médanos:
The médanos are hillock-like elevations of sand, some having a firm, others a loose base. The former, which are always crescent-shaped, are from ten to twenty feet high, and have an acute crest. The inner side is perpendicular, and the outer or bow side forms an angle with a steep inclination downward. When driven by violent winds, the médanos pass rapidly over the plains. The smaller and lighter ones move quickly forwards before the larger ones; but the latter soon overtake and crush them, whilst they are themselves shivered by the collision. These medanos assume all sorts of extraordinary figures, and sometimes move along the plain in rows forming most intricate labyrinths, whereby what might otherwise be visible in the distance is withdrawn from the view of the traveller. A plain often appears to be covered with a row of médanos, and some days afterwards it is again restored to its level and uniform aspect. Persons who have the greatest experience of the coast are apt to mistake their way, when they encounter these sandhills.